Amal Clooney Says U.N. Has Failed Yazidi Women

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Lawyer Amal Clooney speaks during a news conference for Mohamed Nasheed, in London, U.K, October 5, 2015. On Friday, Clooney addressed the U.N. on behalf of the Yazidi minority group, thousands of whom have been captured, tortured or killed by the Islamic State (ISIS) militant group. Peter Nicholls/Reuters

Renowned human rights lawyer Amal Clooney criticized the United Nations for failing to act on behalf of the persecuted Yazidi minority group, thousands of whom remain enslaved by the Islamic State militant group (ISIS).

Clooney spoke during a ceremony for Nadia Murad Basee Taha, a 23-year-old Yazidi woman who was kept as an ISIS sex slave for three months before she escaped. On Friday, Murad was appointed as a Goodwill Ambassador for the Dignity of Survivors of Human Trafficking for the U.N. Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC). Earlier this year, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said ISIS is committing a genocide against several minority groups in Iraq and Syria, including Yazidis, Turkmen and Christians.

"Make no mistake: What Nadia has told us about is genocide,” Clooney said during a speech on Friday. “And genocide doesn't happen by accident. You have to plan it."  

Clooney, a barrister at Doughty Street Chambers in London who focuses on international and human rights law, will represent the Yazidis in an International Criminal Court case, in which she plans to seek accountability for the genocide, sexual enslavement and trafficking of Yazidi women and girls by ISIS. ISIS believe Yazidis are non-believers as they follow an ancient religion and are not Muslim.

"I am ashamed, as a supporter of the United Nations, that states are failing to prevent, or even punish, genocide because they find that their own interests get in the way. I am ashamed as a lawyer that there is no justice being done and barely a complaint being made about it," Clooney said on Friday, which was also the International Day of Peace.

"I am ashamed as a woman that girls like Nadia have their bodies sold and used as battlefields. I am ashamed as a human being that we ignore their cries for help," said Clooney, before strong applause broke out.

Murad retold her story of rape and torture at the hands of ISIS fighters during the ceremony on Friday, which was attended by a number of trafficking survivors as well as members of the Yazidi community. Six of her brothers were among a group of 600 men who were killed on a single day when ISIS militants stormed her village in August 2014. Her mother was one of 80 older women who were executed and buried in unmarked graves, and members of her community were given the choice by ISIS to flee, convert to Islam or be killed. It was, said Murad, “an act of collective genocide against our society."

“I am a farmer, a villager and I was born to be such,” Murad said on Friday. "I was not raised to give speeches... Nor to represent a cause so heavy, so difficult."

More than 3,000 Yazidis remain enslaved by ISIS; Murad said she “cannot feel free when thousands of other girls like me remain captive."

"This slave market is still running today, just a few hours away by plane," said Clooney. She read out excerpts from a pamphlet published by ISIS in December 2014, which stated that sex with a child is permissible, as is the rape and selling and exchanging of non-Muslim women. The pamphlet stated it is acceptable to beat a female slave. 

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon spoke during the ceremony and called Murad a "fierce and tireless advocate of the Yazidi people." He added that she "has shown exceptional courage in speaking out."

Friday's event comes days before two high-level summits on refugees and migrants at the U.N. and the White House, both of which seek to improve the lives of more than 65 million displaced people around the world. Murad, who now lives in Germany, called on the world to take refugees and asylum seekers, particularly those who have been victims of genocide.  

"Nadia and others like her are not seeking revenge," said Clooney. "They're seeking justice, the opportunity to face their abusers in an international court in The Hague."

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