Nadia Murad, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, has presented to the United Nations the ‘Code Murad’. It is a guide with which it intends to help improve the investigations of cases of sexual violence in armed conflicts. A reality that affects women, men and children.
The ‘Murad Code’ proposes standards for the collection of evidence and testimony, with the aim of focusing on the needs of survivors when collecting evidence and ensuring they receive justice and support.
The young woman, of Iraqi origin, is well aware of this situation as she herself was the victim of kidnapping, physical assault and rape by members of the Islamic State in 2014. Four years later, she received the Peace Nobel for their efforts to eradicate sexual violence as a weapon in wars and armed conflicts.
Now, the Nobel Prize winner talks with MagasIN and explains how the Murad Code came about and why it is necessary:
How did the idea of creating the ‘Murad Code’ come about?
The core ideas of the Murad Code have always been apparent to survivors. As sexual violence has become an important part of the international conversation about conflict and human rights, it has become more difficult to ignore.
Survivors are trusted by world leaders, justice systems and news organizations to understand the scope and impact of sexual violence, but they rarely receive the transparency, support or even assistance they need.
So the Institute for International Criminal Investigations (IICI) took responsibility for creating the Murad Code project and worked closely with my organization, the Nadia Initiative and the Government of the United Kingdom.
Who has participated in the preparation of the document?
The project sought ideas and feedback from experts, researchers, organizations and, most importantly, survivors of sexual violence. For me it was really relevant to talk with and not only about them.
Victims know better than anyone what it is like to tell their stories and what kind of support they need. Therefore, we could not achieve the objectives of the guide without listening to them directly.
Why is it important to use the guide when working with and for victims?
The survivors have already endured one of the worst atrocities known to mankind. They tell their stories to help bring justice and support to their communities and to prevent this crime from happening to others. Too often they only receive insensitive questions and false promises.
They are asked to repeat their stories over and over again without respecting their privacy, confidentiality or wishes. Documentarians rarely explain how the testimonies will be used or the dangers involved.
It is understandable that someone does not know how to approach a victim or talk about sexual violence, which has been taboo for many years, but it is not an excuse.
The ‘Murad Code’ provides guidelines so that filmmakers can ensure that they are upholding the rights, safety and wishes of survivors throughout the process.
“The more we work for gender equality in times of peace, the safer women will be in war”
Does the ‘Murad Code’ have international backing to be used?
Documentation of sexual violence must go hand in hand with concrete support. Showing that sexual violence is something that happens is not enough. It is also important to facilitate access to resources for basic needs, health services and psychosocial care. Recovery is a very long process and survivors deserve reliable support to restart their lives.
How can the international community help prevent sexual violence in armed conflict?
Prevention goes hand in hand with accountability. With the Murad Code we can ethically and effectively document sexual violence. Improving the integrity of documentation creates a stronger foundation for justice, truth and support for survivors.
But it is still up to the international community to act on that evidence. Leaders must prosecute perpetrators like ISIS to show that sexual violence is not an acceptable side effect of war: it is a crime in itself.
Leaders must also act to protect women as soon as conflict breaks out, rather than wait for reports of sexual violence. In general, the more we work for gender equality in peacetime, the safer women will be in war.
Are the measures being carried out sufficient? What is wrong or what could be corrected?
The Code is voluntary, so it is up to the individual will of the documentalists to implement the guidelines in the guide. It is really important that we continue to share the Code and raise awareness so that we can change existing standards and create a more supportive environment for survivors.
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Nadia Murad, the Nobel Peace Prize winner who was a sexual slave of ISIS: “You have to talk to the victims”