Interview of Nagham Nawzat – Rebuilding the lives of Yazidi women

23 November 2022

Nagham Nawzat is a gynecologist from Iraqi Kurdistan who has been fighting since 2014 for Yazidi women survivors who were abducted, tortured, raped, and enslaved by the Islamic State. In 2016, she received the American Secretary of State's International Women of Courage Award, recognizing the exceptional work she carries out. She created the NGO “Hope Makers Organization for Women” to help these women reintegrate into society and rebuild their lives. She received the 2016 Franco-German Prize for Human Rights and the Rule of Law and is part of the first promotion of the Marianne Initiative, set up by the President of the French Republic Emmanuel Macron in 2021. In 2022, she is the regional winner for the Middle East and North Africa of the UNHCR Nansen Award.



Can you tell us about your background, and how you started helping Yazidi women?

I am a gynecologist from the Yazidi community. I was born in 1976 at Baashiqa, close to Mosul.

In 2014, ISIS fighters attacked the city of Sinjar, where most of the Yazidi live community used to live. They committed horrible crimes and they killed more than 2,000 of men and old women as they refused to convert to Islam. They captured 6,500 women and children and took them to areas controlled by ISIS. I have started helping women survivors in September 2014, dedicating my life to support them.


Much has been said about the atrocities committed by the Islamic State against the Yazidi community since 2014. According to you, why is the Yazidi community, and particularly women, targeted?

Yazidi religion is peaceful religion, and it gathers only 1 200 000 people all over the world. The majority is living in Iraq and Kurdistan. They believe in God, have their own tradition and language, and have been trying to preserve their identity for a long time.  They respect other religions and were subjected to 73 genocides through the history by the extremist Islamic groups.

ISIS attacked this community because they consider them infidel. When a community is considered infidel, men must convert, or they are killed. If they refuse, women and children become slaves.


For more than 8 years, you have been working alongside these women to help them rebuild their lives. How do you help them daily? Has your action evolved since 2014 and why?

Since 2014 I have dedicated all my life to support women survivors in many ways:

  • Healing program the 1200 of women survivors (5 years follow-up, supporting them and vising them in the camps)
  • Concluding an agreement between the German and Kurdish governments to take 1000 of survivors and their family to Germany to be treated psychologically. I was the physician in charge of the project, and I visited some of them in Germany. I get to know them and was able to let the German government know about their difficulties.
  • Supporting orphans (physical support, advice).
  • Advocacy for the Yazidi community by attending conferences at the national and international Levels.
  • Establishing an organization called Hope Makers to support the survivors and women in need.


Since the disappearance of the Islamic State, where are the rights of the Yazidi people? Where do they live and under what conditions?

The Yazidi genocide has started in 2014 and it has not stopped since as more than 2,700 of women are still missing. As today, 250,000 Yazidi are living in camps in extremely difficult situations. Sinjar has become an area of conflict with no services to help the community to return. There are more than 2,000 orphans who survive without any help.

There is not any justice or accountability for what ISIS committed against the Yazidi people.


What is your goal?

The psychological damages are enormous: after all they went through and that cannot be forgotten, when they are liberated, they end up in camps. Most of them lost all members of their family, and they have no none to support them economically.

My goal is to set up different projects to empower Yazidi women and to open centers for women survivors in Sinjar to treated medically and psychologically.


Is there another other point or an issue you would like to raise? 

I believe that international community and civil society must find a solution to protect women and children who are the first victims of this war.

Stay tuned

I subscribe to the newsletter