There were roughly 4 million slaves living in the American South at the height of slavery in the United States. Today, an estimated 45.8 million people live in slavery.
This is more than 5 times the population of New York City; more than the population of the state of California, and more than 50% of the population of France.
In December, Nadia Murad Basee Taha spoke to the UN Security Council to discuss the serious problem of human trafficking. Next week, she will be inducted into the UN as a Goodwill Ambassador for the Dignity of Survivors of Human Trafficking.
Nadia is a Yazidi woman who was captured by ISIS when her hometown was attacked on August 3rd, 2014. She was able to escape in November 2014 and make her way to Germany, where she lives today.
Nadia describes ISIS as a “nightmare” that is “trying to destroy our culture and take our freedom away from us” and classifies the attack as “true genocide.”
“Their aim was to eliminate all Yazidis under the pretext that according to them we were infidels. The Islamic State did not just come to kill our women and girls, but they took us as war booty, as merchandise to be exchanged,” says Nadia. The terrorists had a single goal in mind: “to destroy the Yazidi identify through force, rape, the recruitment of children, and the destruction of all of our temples.”
Survivors of the attack were separated into groups on August 15th. The women and children were loaded onto buses while the men – including six of Nadia’s brothers – were killed. When they reached their destination, the women and children were exchanged and traded like gifts. Nadia was introduced to her new “owner” and forced to become a sex slave.
Over the next three months Nadia was raped, beaten, and humiliated. “He forced me to wear clothes that didn’t cover by body.” On one occasion, she was handed over to a group of guards and was raped continuously until she passed out.
“The Islamic State gave us two options: become a Muslim or die,” says Nadia. “The Islamic State has made Yazidi women into flesh to be trafficked in. I very much hope that humanity has not yet disappeared. Firstly, more than 3,400 women and children still need to be released; they are still suffering.”
Nadia asked the UN to recognize the “collective slavery,” “murder,” and “genocide” that is occurring today and begged the council to liberate Yazidi territory “so that we can bury our dead.”
Nadia’s concerns must be addressed. Terrorist organizations like ISIS and Boko Haram are openly promoting and organizing slavery on a shocking scale.
Over 5,000 Yazidis currently live in slavery, but human trafficking isn’t just a problem in Syria and Iraq. ISIS enslavement and human trafficking have been found in Australia, Algeria, Egypt, Belgium, Libya, Kazakhstan, Morocco, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Uzbekistan, and Turkey.
Part of this drastic rise in slavery has been attributed to social media, which groups like ISIS use to organize online slave auctions.
What can the United Nations do?
The UN Security Council should immediately denounce all involvement with human trafficking and encourage states to punish anyone involved. They should set up a special tribunal to discuss ISIS’s war crimes and ramp up monitoring efforts to disrupt slavery connected with armed conflict.
The UN should also do more to help the 65+ million people who have been displaced by conflict, taking advantage of technology and the private sector to do so.
Nadia’s testimony was a powerful force, and her appointment as ambassador heralds the UN’s commitment to act. It is now up to the Security Council to rescue those currently enslaved and to ensure that more people do not suffer Nadia’s fate.