“The world has only one border—the border of humanity.”
At 23 years old, Nadia Murad is doing amazing things—testifying before the Canadian House of Commons and the UN Security Council, addressing the UN General Assembly, meeting refugees, leading a memorial event in Berlin for a genocide. Although this all seems exciting, it is actually a burden she feels compelled to carry. On Her Shoulders is a look into a few months of Murad’s activities and the reason they are so important.
In 2014, ISIS declared that the Yazidis (a religious minority in northern Iraq) should be eliminated. They set out on a genocidal spree in which over 5000 people were killed in a few weeks and over 7000 women and children were captured and forced into sexual slavery and child soldiering. Murad was one of those captured. In all, eighteen members of her family were killed or enslaved. In time, she escaped and began to tell her story. She tells it not because she wants to relive it, but because she sees herself as the voice of all those still enslaved.
Filmmaker Alexandria Bombach followed Murad during the summer of 2016. We see her doing TV and radio interviews, meeting with members of Parliament and with UN officials, visiting refugee camps where many Yazidis live while awaiting countries that will take them in. We see her in the almost normal life that takes place between the public events she is part of. She is indeed a remarkable young woman who has taken on a difficult and demanding role. Part of the difficulty is that the media (and official bodies like the committee in the House of Commons) focus on the sexual slavery that was forced on her. She is willing to talk about it, but she complains at one point in the film that they are always asking the wrong question. Few ever ask “What can be done for the Yazidis?”
Maybe it’s because I see so many films about refugees and genocide, but as I watched this there was a sense of saturation on these topics. Yes, we know there are genocides happening. Yes, we know people have been driven from their homes with little hope of finding a place in the world to accept them. Do we need to see it yet again?
The answer to that is “Yes.” Yes, we do need to hear Nadia Murad’s story, because it is not just her story, but the story of thousands of others. Yes, we do need to hear the ugly truths of genocide. Yes, we do need to see the hardship of life in a refugee camp. Because we see and hear of so much suffering like this, we may feel overwhelmed. Our hearts can become hard, our souls calloused. That is why we need to see stories like Nadia Murad’s. We need to open our hearts. We need to care.
[Late news: Nadia Murad shares this years Nobel Peace Prize.]
Photos courtesy of Oscilloscope Laboratories