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This survivor gave a powerful message about sexual violence at Davos 2022

Nadia Murad was at Davos calling for action to tackle sexual violence in conflict.

Nadia Murad was at Davos calling for action to tackle sexual violence in conflict. Image: World Economic Forum/Manuel Lope

Joe Myers
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Davos Agenda

This article is part of: World Economic Forum Annual Meeting

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  • Nadia Murad, co-founder of the Global Survivors Fund, spoke at Davos 2022 today.
  • She called on global action to combat sexual violence as a weapon of war.
  • She drew on her own experiences to press for better support of survivors.

A survivor of sexual violence in war has given a powerful message to Davos about its impact - and called for greater global action to tackle it and to help survivors.

Nadia Murad, co-founder of the Global Survivors Fund, drew on her own experiences to highlight the plight of women in conflict zones around the world.

As UNHCR explains, "conflict and situations of instability exacerbate pre-existing patterns of discrimination against women and girls." In 2008, the UN Security Council affirmed through a resolution that "rape and other forms of sexual violence can constitute war crimes, crimes against humanity or a constitutive act with respect to genocide."

However, Murad pushed for more concerted action to bring perpetrators to justice.

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Sexual violence and conflict

"Sexual violence is used as a weapon of war in conflict around the world," Murad told the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Outlook session. "It's used as a targeted strategy to destabilize communities to destroy victims whose lives to dissolve the ties that bind our communities," she stressed.

And we need to do much more to tackle this, she said. "We need consistent commitments from the international community to address the root causes of gender-based violence through law and accountability."

"We have failed to protect the basic human rights of women especially - in Iraq or in Afghanistan and in so many other places," she added.

Her message echoed warnings from the UN last year that 'women in war zones continue to suffer and global commitments remain largely unmet.'

"We have seen reports of sexual violence already coming from Ukraine." said Nadia Murad
"We have seen reports of sexual violence already coming from Ukraine." said Nadia Murad Image: World Economic Forum/Manuel Lope

Her experience

"It was just eight years ago when ISIS attacked my community and they enslaved more than 6,500 women and children into sexual slavery," Nadia Murad, co-founder of the Global Survivors Fund, told Davos today.

"Including myself, 11 of my sisters-in-law, five of my sisters, my nieces, my cousins. And as we speak, 2,800 women and children are still missing in captivity," she said.

"We were bought and sold and we were repeatedly raped and tortured," Murad said. But, just one person has been held accountable, she explained.

Much more is needed, therefore, to make progress and prevent it being repeated again and again. "We are seeing the same pattern repeated in other places," she said. "We have seen reports of sexual violence already coming from Ukraine."

Nadia Murad: There are only two sustainable ways to help survivors of sexual violence - either 'help them to access support and justice to go back to their homes' or give them asylum in another country
Nadia Murad: There are only two sustainable ways to help survivors of sexual violence - either 'help them to access support and justice to go back to their homes' or give them asylum in another country Image: World Economic Forum/Manuel Lope

How to help survivors of sexual violence

"It is hard to heal and to recover without justice," she said. Perpetrators must be held accountable but survivors also need support to live a dignified life.

"We had to go to displacement camps for eight years," Murad explained. "Survivors of sexual violence in Iraq are being displaced. They have no basic privacy. They don't have job opportunities, no education." How can they recover from their trauma when they've given their stories time and time again without any progress, she asked.

There are only two sustainable ways to help survivors of sexual violence, she said. Either 'help them to access support and justice to go back to their homes' or give them asylum in another country.

She explained how she has worked with the UK government to create a guide for journalists, investigators and anyone working with survivors. It's designed to help them 'do it in a respectful and supportive way, because we should not re-traumatize them.' This document has been shared with the Government of Ukraine, she added.

"We cannot just address their trauma, we have to talk about other aspects of marginalization as well. Sexual violence doesn't happen in a vacuum," she said.

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