Nobel laureate returns to Iraq, pledges to work for peace

Iraqi President Barham Salih with Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Yazidi activist Nadia Murad, at Salam Palace in Baghdad on Wed Dec. 12, 2018. (REUTERS)
Updated 12 December 2018

Nobel laureate returns to Iraq, pledges to work for peace

  • Murad, a member of Iraq's Yazidi minority
  • Yazidis are followers of an ancient faith who are falsely branded devil-worshippers by Sunni extremists

BAGHDAD: Iraqi activist Nadia Murad met her country's president in Baghdad on Wednesday after receiving the Nobel Peace Prize for her advocacy on behalf of victims of wartime sexual violence.
Murad, a member of Iraq's Yazidi minority, was among thousands of women and girls who were captured and forced into sexual slavery by Daesh militants in 2014. She became an activist on behalf of women and girls after escaping and finding refuge in Germany.
She arrived in Baghdad from Stockholm on Wednesday, and was received by President Barham Salih.
"There is no meaning to the Nobel prize without the ongoing work for the sake of peace," Murad told group of community leaders and foreign ambassadors at the presidential palace.
Yazidis are followers of an ancient faith who are falsely branded devil-worshippers by Sunni extremists. When the Daesh group swept into northern Iraq in 2014, the militants massacred thousands of Yazidi men and enslaved an estimated 7,000 women and girls.
Many managed to escape as U.S.-backed Iraqi forces gradually drove the militants from all the territory they once held in a grueling 3-year campaign, but some 3,000 Yazidi women and girls are still missing.
Murad called on the Iraqi government and the US-led coalition to search for the missing. She also called on the government to rebuild her hometown, Sinjar. More than 80 percent of Yazidis are still living in displacement camps.
In her Nobel speech on Monday, Murad urged world leaders to put an end to sexual violence, saying "the only prize in the world that can restore our dignity is justice and the prosecution of criminals."
Iraq's president said Murad "embodies the suffering and tragedies Iraqis have gone through in the past and represents the courage and determination to defend rights in the face of the oppressor."
The Yazidis had endured a "heinous and a rare crime in history," Salih said and called on parliament to pass a law recognizing it as a genocide.
Murad later met Hadi al-Amiri and Falih al-Fayadh, top leaders of Iraq's Popular Mobilization militia umbrella, which played a key role in the war against IS. The militias are jointly responsible, with Iraqi federal forces, for the security of Sinjar.
As Murad was receiving her prize in Oslo, Iraq celebrated the anniversary of its costly victory over IS, which still carries out sporadic attacks and controls a remote enclave just across the border in Syria. The war left tens of thousands dead, and destroyed entire neighborhoods and towns. Some 1.8 million people are still displaced from their homes.


Innovation, cooperation key to GCC’s economic vitality

The speakers underscored the need for GCC countries to strengthen their economies by continuing to invest in health care and education. (Photo/Supplied)
Updated 44 min 53 sec ago

Innovation, cooperation key to GCC’s economic vitality

  • Abu Dhabi Strategic Debate features discussions on pressing geopolitical issues

ABU DHABI: The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) could become the sixth-largest economic power in the world by 2030 if it can maintain the same pace of growth and development, according to a senior Bahraini official. Dr. Abdulla bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa, chairman of the Bahrain Center for Strategic, International and Energy Studies (DERASAT), made the remark while speaking at the Abu Dhabi Strategic Debate (ADSD) on Monday.
With “Old Power Competition in the New Age” as its theme, the conference has featured an impressive lineup of speakers. The topics for the second and final day were broadly “Power distribution in the Gulf region” and “Repercussions of conflicts on the future of Arab states.”
Al-Khalifa underscored the need for GCC countries to strengthen their economies by continuing to invest in health care and education and boosting the quality of human resources.
On the subject of regional tensions, Al-Khalifa had three likely scenarios, starting with one in which Gulf states become a united political bloc that serves as a “regional center for innovation, entrepreneurship, cooperation and sustainable development.” In the second scenario, a dire fate awaits the region, with terrorism and unrest prevailing over the forces of social and economic stability.
An equally worse-case scenario sees a “static” future, with the GCC region condemned to a prolonged period of unrest and constant interference by regional and global powers in their affairs.
Similar apprehensions were expressed by Mahmoud Jibril, a former prime minister of Libya and president of the National Forces’ Alliance, during a separate panel discussion, “Middle East Power Distribution: Hard, Soft and Artificial.”
Arguing that Israel has emerged as “the main winner” in Middle East conflicts, Jibril blamed the Arab world for not moving in step with “the trends of this era.”

HIGHLIGHT

With ‘Old Power Competition in the New Age’ as its theme, the conference has featured an impressive line-up of speakers.

He said that Israel was the recipient of 21 percent of international investments by technology giants such as Apple, Microsoft and Amazon in their research and development centers.
“Investment channeled to Israel is 200 times as a proportion of the country’s population. These are its source of power,” Jibril said. By contrast, he said, the Arab world has one of the highest budgets for military acquisitions and yet its security environment keeps deteriorating.
Jibril identified three forces that he said are shaping modern history. The first is technologies such as AI (artificial intelligence) and digitalization. The second is youth, which he described as a “game changer” in the region. The third force, according to Jibril, is climate change.
“In the coming years, cities will disappear because of rising temperatures and economies will collapse due to expanding desertification,” he said. “The consequences will be migration and conflict. Unfortunately, these three forces cannot be reversed. At best, their impacts can be mitigated.”
Earlier in the day, Dr. Ebtesam Al-Ketbi, president of the Emirates Policy Center, the ADSD’s organizer, said that the Gulf region is witnessing “fierce competition among states over power redistribution.”
While the region’s security and stability will continue to be among the primary challenges, change will come once a deal with Iran is reached, she said.
“Iran doesn’t have anything to lose at the level of infrastructure,” El-Ketbi said.
“If a missile hits Iran, the country will not lose much but if a missile hits Aramco from Iran, there is a lot to lose.”
Al-Ketbi said that a balance of hard and soft power is crucial for achieving stability in the region. “Having hard power alone leads to wars and acts of sabotage,” she said, evidently alluding to recent incidents in the Gulf, while “possession of soft power alone is not enough for achieving security, especially for the GCC countries.”