photo of Nadia Murad

Human rights activist Nadia Murad to receive O’Connor Justice Prize from ASU

By

Nicole Almond Anderson

Nadia Murad, the acclaimed Yazidi human rights activist who founded a global initiative to advocate for survivors of violence and genocide, has been named the sixth recipient of the O’Connor Justice Prize.

The award, administered by the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University, was established in 2014 to honor the legacy of the school’s namesake, retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. It recognizes those who have made extraordinary efforts to advance rule of law, justice and human rights.

“I am grateful to receive this award and to be included among the prestigious past recipients of the O’Connor Justice Prize,” Murad said.

The 26-year-old is a member of the Yazidi community, an ethnoreligious minority in Iraq. Yazidis have faced centuries of persecution and were targeted by ISIS militants in a campaign that began in 2014. Murad was among the thousands of women taken captive. ISIS murdered six of her brothers and her mother. She was held captive before escaping and eventually resettled in Germany as a refugee.

She became a voice for survivors, writing a New York Times bestselling memoir, “The Last Girl,” and founding Nadia’s Initiative, which is dedicated to rebuilding communities in crisis and advocating globally for survivors of sexual violence.

In 2018, she became the first Iraqi and Yazidi to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. She was a co-recipient with Congolese advocate Denis Mukwege for “their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict.”

She advocates throughout the world, meeting with global leaders to raise awareness of ISIS and its genocidal campaign against the Yazidis. Nadia’s Initiative works to persuade governments and other international organizations to support survivors of sexual violence and to invest in the sustainable redevelopment of the Yazidi homeland of Sinjar, Iraq.

She said prestigious recognitions such as the O’Connor Justice Prize help bring awareness to her causes.

“As with every award I receive, this prize symbolizes a continued global awareness of the plight of Yazidis and survivors of sexual violence and the ongoing need to work to end both the genocide of my people and sexual violence in conflict,” Murad said. “I hope the global community will take up their responsibility to recognize the Yazidi genocide, protect women and invest in efforts like those we undertake at my organization Nadia’s Initiative — to rebuild the Yazidi homeland of Sinjar and invest in the healing and development of the Yazidi community."

Nadia’s Initiative also takes aim at inaction, warning world leaders that they must go beyond promises and effect change, or share in the blame. The organization says words without action inflict the same harm and suffering as the perpetrators of mass atrocities and sexual violence.

Among the specific projects Nadia’s Initiative is spearheading in Sinjar: building a new hospital; rehabilitating hundreds of farms that were burned or destroyed by ISIS; building a new school and rehabilitating destroyed schools; providing water, sanitation and hygiene services; and working with the U.S. State Department to remove thousands of land mines. The organization also teamed with human rights lawyer Amal Clooney to bring to court the world’s first prosecution of international crimes committed by ISIS against Yazidis.

Murad will be presented with the O’Connor Justice Prize in a ceremony on Feb. 15 at the Omni Scottsdale Resort and Spa at Montelucia.

She is the third Nobel Peace Prize winner to receive the honor. Previous recipients of the O’Connor Justice Prize are:

• Inaugural recipient Navanethem Pillay of South Africa, the former U.N. high commissioner for human rights. She was honored for her fight against apartheid, as well as her championing of international human rights.

• Ana Palacio, the first woman to serve as the foreign affairs minister of Spain. Member of the Council of State of Spain and former senior vice president and general counsel of the World Bank Group.

• Jimmy Carter, the 39th president of the United States, for his humanitarian work since leaving office. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002 for his efforts to find peaceful solutions to conflicts, advance democracy and to promote economic and social development.

• Anson Chan, the former chief secretary of Hong Kong. Known as “Hong Kong’s conscience” for her decades of devotion to social justice and democracy, she helped oversee the transition from British control in 1997.

• FW de Klerk, the former South African president who led the dismantling of that country’s apartheid system and co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize with Nelson Mandela in 1993.