Washington Post: Trump's State of the Union Address

Feb 8, 2019
In The News

9 p.m.: Nobel Peace Prize winner Nadia Murad in attendance

Nobel Peace Prize winner Nadia Murad, a Yazidi activist and survivor of genocide, will attend the State of the Union tonight as the guest of Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.).

In 2014, the world watched in horror the Yazidi, a religious and ethnic minority in Iraq, fell victim to the Islamic State. Thousands were displaced, while many were subjected to execution, torture, and rape. In 2016, Secretary of State John Kerry officially declared the atrocities as genocide. Murad was one of thousands of Yazidi women who were taken into captivity by the Islamic State and forced into sexual slavery. She escaped, and eventually made her way to Germany as a refugee. She embarked on a career as a human rights activist and in 2018, she shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Denis Mukwege, who helped rape survivors in the Democratic Republic of Congo. She is the first Iraqi to win the prize.

By attending the State of the Union tonight, “My hope is that the American people will continue to support groups like us,” she told the Post through a translator. “Without the support of the international community and especially the U.S., the Yazidis and other minorities will not be able to survive in their region...Their existence depends on it.”

Though ISIS has been beaten back in the region, the Yazidi’s plight is not over. Control of the territory remains in dispute, and thousands remain displaced, uncertain if it’s safe to return.

“We should all share humanity,” she said. She emphasized the need for security, jobs, and infrastructure in the region.

This has been a longtime issue for Fortenberry, who cosponsored 2016 House resolution that helped prompt the Obama administration to declare the slaughter of Yazidis a genocide. Tonight, he emphasized the need for security for the Yazidi and other religious minorities in Iraq. The U.S. government had pledged $300 million since Fiscal Year 2017 to aiding religious minorities in Iraq, but Fortenberry said that the region was “vulnerable to the regeneration of ISIS.”

Trump recently declared that the Islamic State had been “defeated,” though his assessment has been disputed. Though Fortenberry did not disagree with Trump, he said there was a danger of an “ISIS 2.0”.

To protect the Yazidi, he believed the U.S. and the international community could implement a training plan “empowering proper Iraqi authorities to be able to defend themselves.” He said he hoped to work on further details of a plan in the coming months.

— Kayla Epstein


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