Amal Clooney delivers damning speech to the UN over failure to stop Isis 'genocide': 'I am ashamed'

Human rights lawyer representing Yazidi Goodwill Ambassador who escaped Isis' clutches rebukes UN for inaction over trafficking and mass murder 

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The Independent Online

Amal Clooney sat before the United Nations on Friday and delivered a damning speech on its failure to tackle some of the gravest crimes committed by Isis against the Yazidi community. 

The renowned human rights lawyer told delegates gathered that she was "ashamed" more steps had not been taken by the UN against the terror group, which “brags” about the mass murder and enslavement of Yazidi men, women and children in areas of the Middle East under its control. 

Clooney was speaking to introduce Nadia Murad, a woman who was captured in northern Iraq in 2014 and trafficked as a sex slave by Isis before eventually escaping. She was one of 5,000 women abducted by fighters as the group swept through territories in Iraq. Many of these women were sold as 'sabia' - slaves, and those who escaped have described brutal gang-rapes and being passed among fighters. 

Murad, 23, appeared before the UN in New York in 2015 and spoke of the horrific experiences inflicted upon her by Isis. She will act as an ambassador for the Dignity of Survivors of Human Trafficking for the UN’s Drugs and Crime body. 

Clooney, who is representing Murad and was sat by her side on Friday, is in New York with Murad to meet with representatives from the government in Iraq, the UN and members of the UN Security Council. 

The “unimaginable horrors” committed against the minority Yazidis was detailed in an extensive report by the Independent International Commission of Inquiry (COI) on the Syrian Arab Republic in June.

Murad’s mother and six brothers were among 600 murdered by Isis in one day after her capture. The barbarity she has recalled of her time in captivity was highlighted by Clooney, who delivered a powerful and direct speech that left no uncertainty in its message: the atrocities committed by Isis and detailed by Murad amount to genocide, and not enough has been done to tackle or even address it. 

She told delegates: “Make no mistake: what Nadia has told us about is genocide, and genocide doesn’t happen by accident. You have to plan it." 

Clooney highlighted the disturbing pamphlet distributed by Isis which decreed Yazidi girls could be raped as soon as they have hit puberty and sold in slave markets as they are considered “merely property”. She went on: “This slave market is still running today - just a few hours away by plane.” 

Clooney was fiercely critical of the inaction by the UN in the face of the persecution of Yazidis, something she conveyed in her opening remarks. 

Young Yazidi girl gives powerful speech at UN

“This is the first time I have spoken in this chamber. I wish I could say I'm proud to be here but I am not. 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.”

At the end of her eight-minute address, Clooney turned to Murad and apologised on behalf of world leaders for not doing more to help women like her. "I am sorry we have failed you," she said. 

"And to those who thought that in their acts, they could destroy you, let them know this: Nadia Murad’s spirit is not broken and her voice will not be silenced, because as of today, Nadia is the United Nations ambassador who will speak for survivors all over the world.” 

Her speech is in full below: 

“Nadia’s mother was one of 80 older women who were executed and buried in an unmarked grave.

nadia-murad.jpg
Nadia Murad (Getty Images )

“Her brothers were part of a group of 600 murdered in a single day. Make no mistake: what Nadia has told us about is genocide, and genocide doesn’t happen by accident. You have to plan it. 

“Before the genocide began two years ago, the Isis resurgence fatwa department studied the Yazidis, and concluded that as a Kurdish-speaking group that did not have a holy book, they were non-believers whose enslavement was a 'firmly established aspect of sharia'. This is why, according to Isis’ warped morality, only Yazidis, unlike other minority groups, can be systematically raped. 

“Isis even released a pamphlet entitled 'Questions and Answers on Taking Captives and Slaves' to provide more guidelines, [answering questions like]: ”is it permissible to have intercourse with a female slave who has not reached puberty." [The answer was yes.]

[…] 

“This is the first time I have spoken in this chamber. I wish I could say I'm proud to be here but I am not. 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. I am ashamed as a woman that girls like Nadia could have their bodies sold and used as battlefields.

“I am ashamed as a human being that we ignore their cries for help. We know that what we have before us is genocide, and we know that it is still ongoing. We know exactly who the perpetrators are. They brag. Isis brags about its crimes online

“There is no-one more blameless than the young Yazidi girl who has lost everything and who today comes before you and asks for your help.  Yet two years on, two years after the genocide began, 3,200 Yazidi women and children are still held captive by Isis and not a single member of Isis has been prosecuted in a court anywhere in the world for crimes committed against the Yazidi. “

[...] 

“Nadia and others like her are not seeking revenge, they are seeking justice. The opportunity to face their abusers in an international court at the Hague.

“I am proud to sit beside this young woman whose strength and leadership astounds me. She has defied all the labels that life has given her: orphan, rape victim, slave, refugee. She has instead created new ones. Survivor, Yazidi leader, women’s advocate. Nobel Peace Prize nominee. And now, as of today, Goodwill ambassador. 

“I am proud to know you Nadia, and I am sorry that we have failed you. I hope that your appointment today can be a turning point for all victims of sexual violence in human trafficking. And to those who thought that in their acts, they could destroy you, let them know this: Nadia Murad’s spirit is not broken and her voice will not be silenced, because as of today, Nadia is the United Nations ambassador who will speak for survivors all over the world.” 

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