Human rights belong to all people. Today, we are all entitled to the same rights despite our religion, sex or any other status that allows us to be whoever we want. Unfortunately, almost everyone at one point in their lives will have these rights violated. Throughout history, people’s human rights have been desecrated, but efforts have also been made by activists to address the violations, and protect their rights. While both Nadia Murad and Victor Mukasa’s experiences and objectives differentiate their struggles, they are human rights activists who have revolutionized the world while fighting through the issues they face as minority groups.
Even though Nadia and Victor are both human rights activists, their causes and objectives are quite different. Nadia was born and raised in a small town in northern Iraq, named Kocho. At the young age of 20, Nadia’s hometown was destroyed by members of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS. The older men and women were brutally murdered and the young children were led to another town nearby and sold into sex slavery thereafter. Murad was one of more than 6,700 Yazidi women and girls who were held captive by the Islamic State (Robert Guestis, 2018) in Iraq and was held as a slave in the city of Mosul (Nadia Murad, 2018), where they were beaten, burned with cigarettes, and raped. Once settled, the militants wasted no time and commenced their “slave market” (The Guardian). Hundreds of men began piling up, in search of their next victim, whereas the women and children screamed in agony and distress. They screeched and howled, some lying on the ground, others doing whatever possible to stop the assault, but their voices were drowned by the angry, disapproving growls of the militants and their customers. Nadia’s captor was Hajji Salman, a high ranking judge in Mosul who no one dares to oppose. From then on, she was assaulted daily by not just Salman, but also the men who he brought home; Nadia couldn’t tolerate the pain, and fortunately, was able to escape the rape and torture of the Islamic State after her captor left the house unlocked (The Guardian, 2018) Since then, Nadia vowed to fight for the rights of the people who were not able to speak; she fought for the women, men and innocent children who were in captivity and the survivors of sexual violence and mistreatment. After experiencing the assault first hand, Nadia Murad plans on using her story as “it is the best weapon I have against terrorism, and I plan on using it until those terrorists are put on trial” (The Guardian, 2018). On the contrary, Victor Mukasa was born in Uganda and was assigned female at birth. As he continued to get older, he realized that his true identity did not correspond with his assigned gender. As he grew up in a Catholic household, Victor was often punished for his actions as he liked to dress like a tomboy. The majority of Uganda also deemed transgender acts as sinful. Uganda’s Bill of Rights did not include the LGBT+ community (Kiwanuka, 2011) and members of the community would be punished, objectified and put into holding cells, where they would be brutalized even further. Victor had, unfortunately, experienced the brutality and cruelty after a raid of his home, which resulted in police confiscating LGBT+ related documents and Victor being arrested. Victor is a victim of inhuman and degrading sexual harassment and indecent assault. Ugandan ministers and government officials tried to introduce new laws against homosexuality that would include life imprisonment and even the death penalty. Homophobia was rife in the media with tabloid papers printing the names and addresses of gay men and lesbians (BBC.com, 2019). Many activists suffered intimidation and assault until the law was eventually overturned by the Constitutional Court in 2014 but homosexuality was still illegal in Uganda (BBC.com, 2019). Victor had secretly filed an ‘Application for enforcement of rights guaranteed in the Bill of Rights’ challenging his detention and police abuse. Later on in the year, the High Court had ruled that the ‘Bill of Rights’ prolongs to all citizens of Uganda, including the members of the LGBT community (Kiwanuka, 2011).
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Nadia and Victor are both respectful human rights activists who have revolutionized the world in the foremost optimal way as they both have been awarded positions of power in their own causes. Nadia was just 26 when she was awarded the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize Award for heroism and she is currently the Goodwill Ambassador for the Dignity of Survivors of Human Trafficking at the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (Carlton, 2018). Nadia’s motivational speeches and emotional talks with survivors have brought light on the issue of human trafficking and slavery that still occur around the globe. Many have praised her work with large organizations, particularly the United Nations, with whom she currently works. Her way to the Nobel Peace Prize started when she joined a dissident gathering in Germany and took her to the U.N., where she turned into a human rights diplomat and afterward composed a book. The U.N. perceives the massacre that happened to the Yazidis, however, there are more steps to verify a preliminary. After the honour of being the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize, alongside Denise Mukwege, Nadia became a brand and a celebrity. Countries, billionaires and NGOs paid Nadia’s Initiative high fees for Nadia to speak (Washington Post, 2019). On a number of occasions, Nadia questioned why people wouldn’t just help the Yazidis without her having to retell her horrifying and heartbreaking story, forcing her to relive her trauma in exchange for support. Throughout her advocacy, Nadia’s Initiative had raised commitments of millions of dollars for farmers, the construction of a new school, a new hospital and other programs, but reconstruction is nearly impossible when the region is not yet secure (Carlton, 2018). The United States was able to provide forces and protection when Nadia met with President Trump in 2019 for a meet and greet to promote an end to religious persecution (USA Today, 2019). Similarly, Victor Mukasa is the program coordinator for the Cape Town office of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission and, has been an active part of the LGBT+ community (Burke, 2019). He has also served in varying capacities with the “East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Network, Freedom and Roam Uganda, Trans Support Initiative, Uganda, and the Pan African e-networks African Solidarity and Trans Africa. Mukasa is the current executive director of Kuchu Diaspora Alliance-USA” (Maglott, 2017). His work has been greatly appreciated by millions across the world, but most importantly, the citizens of Uganda. Victor had assisted in the passing of the “Bill of Rights” in Uganda, alongside Yvonne Oyoo, another human rights activist and his efforts have allowed members of the LGBT community who reside in Uganda to walk freely within the streets of Uganda without fear of brutality and/or arrest. Having experienced the trauma first hand, Victor’s will to challenge law enforcement to stop the hate crimes against the LGBT+ community and to be included in the Bill of Rights, intensified. Even after the passing of the bill, hate crimes against gay people, including physical and sexual assault, blackmail and extortion, are common in Uganda, but most victims are too fearful to go to the police, according to rights groups (Xtra Magazine, 2012). Campaigners say existing laws are also used to discriminate against LGBT+ people, making it harder for them to get a job or promotion, rent housing or access health and education services (Outright International, 2012). As a result, many flee to neighbouring countries where discrimination, though still acute, is less severe (Outright International, 2012). Now residing in the United States, Ugandans thank Victor for all of his contributions in enforcing rights for the LGBT+ people.
Nadia and Victor both face overt discrimination for being part of a minority group. Nadia is a woman and a person of colour, which makes it excruciatingly difficult to be taken seriously by people in positions of power. In a private interview with her lawyer, Amal Clooney, she expressed that she struggles with being treated with respect by others and when she first set about speaking regarding human trafficking issues and rights, she had acquired a large number of death threats by members of the Islamic State and crime bosses with obscene and demeaning slurs that objectified her (CBSNews, 2019). These degrading letters were the reason Nadia was hesitant to come out of her home, currently residing in Germany, and she also is petrified to “make eye-contact” (CBSNews, 2019) says, Amal Clooney. Nadia later stated that it wasn’t enough to step back and let the innocent Yazidis suffer in silence, while the criminals walk free (Channel 4, 2019). Alongside her struggle with being a woman, her Iraqi background and culture have accumulated thousands of racial slurs on social media (Morin, 2019) with comments that included derogatory nick-names instructing her to “go back to where she came from” (MSN, 2019). Media outlets and journalists have written thousands of articles about Nadia’s assault and media focus shifted to the forms of sexual torture she had endured (Glamour, 2018). The terminology used to describe her; “sex slave, ISIS hostage, sexual violence victim” (Whyte, 2018) was offensive and de-emphasized her and other survivors’ heroism. The stories of heroism in escaping ISIS captivity were lost and “I found this disempowering in so many ways.” (Whyte, 2018). Likewise, Victor Mukasa is also part of a minority group. Being transgender has resulted in him being degraded and assaulted by the police, society and even by his own family. Before his activism, Victor was sent to the church and as part of a church ceremony, (Outright Action International, 2012), Mukasa was stripped naked, and his clothes and shoes were burned to “kill the male spirit” (Xtra Magazine, Video); Victor then stopped going to church and decided to embrace his difference. He went to a discrete LGBT+ support group and with a few other members commenced protesting in front of political landmarks. Uganda’s Bill of Rights did not include the LGBT community until late 2008 (The Guardian, 2019), and before the inclusion of the community, they lived out of fear. Like Nadia, many would not come out of their homes for days, scared they will be arrested by the police who patrolled the streets of Uganda (Maglott, 2017), but even if they did stay at home, that did not mean they were safe. In Victor’s case, his house was raided by the Ugandan police when an anonymous tip from a citizen claimed Victor is a part of the LGBT community. When documents with proof surfaced that Victor was, in fact, a part of the LGBT community, he was immediately sent to prison where he was tortured and his cries for mercy were neglected. This goes to show even with four walls around you, proper law action must be initiated to protect the minorities that suffer from the pain of suffering and neglect.
In conclusion, as both Nadia Murad and Victor Mukasa both fight for equality and human rights, they suffer through the hardships of being part of a minority group and the differences that separate them from the rest of the world. Without Nadia’s contribution, thousands of Yazidis would still be in captivity by the Islamic State, and Uganda would still be a dangerous place for LGBT+ people if it weren’t for Victor’s assistance in passing the Bill of Rights. Together, Nadia and Victor strive to correct inhumane behaviour and serve as heroes of the 21st century.