Through her work as an international human rights lawyer, Amal Clooney has been involved in many high-profile cases. However, her action against ISIS – as revealed in a TV interview with Today – could land her in very dangerous territory.
It’s safe to say that Clooney is no stranger to conflict. Born Amal Alamuddin in Lebanon in 1978 at the height of a civil war, the future lawyer was forced out of her country at the age of just two. Why? Because the horror of battle became too much for her family to bear.
Perhaps it was this early experience that shaped her decision to work in international law and human rights. Indeed, one of her early major cases saw her attempt to prosecute those responsible for Lebanese prime minister Rafic Hariri’s death. Furthermore, this was a case that saw her face off against militant group Hezbollah.
While cases like this would test anyone’s mettle, it seems that Clooney isn’t finished fighting the world’s most dangerous organizations. Now the fearless lawyer has taken on ISIS and will stop at nothing to see the group tried for genocide.
Clooney’s fight began after she met Nadia Murad, a 23-year-old Iraqi UN Goodwill Ambassador and a victim of ISIS’ cruelty. A member of the Yazidi minority, Murad witnessed her family’s massacre and was later forced into sexual slavery.
During Murad’s induction ceremony at the UN earlier this month, Clooney stressed the need to try ISIS commanders for their crimes. “I wish I could say I’m proud to be here, but I’m not,” she told delegates at the organization’s New York headquarters.
“I am ashamed as a supporter of the United Nations that states are failing to prevent or even punish genocide,” she continued. “I am ashamed as a lawyer that no justice is being done and barely a complaint [is] being made about it.”
Soon after, Clooney reiterated her point on NBC’s Today and expressed feeling “a sense of outrage” over the treatment of women like Murad. “It’s been harrowing to hear the testimony of girls as young as 11 and 12 talk about what’s happened to them,” she said. “Still we haven’t been able to do anything about it.”
Like thousands of women whose stories remain untold, Murad was captured by ISIS forces and sold into slavery. During her three-month period of captivity, she was actually burned with lit cigarettes and raped by more than 12 men. Indeed, at one stage the abuse was so great that she lost consciousness.
“I can’t imagine anything worse being done by one human to another,” Clooney told Today’s Cynthia McFadden. And to state her case, Clooney appeared alongside Murad – whom she represents along with other victims of the Yazidi genocide – and went into moving detail about the atrocities committed by ISIS and the need to punish the group.
“It’s not enough,” argued Clooney after McFadden brought up the subject of military intervention. “You can’t kill an idea that way. I think one of the ways to take action against that is to expose their brutality and their corruption, and partly you can do that through trials.”
But taking on a case such as this isn’t without its cost – especially with ISIS’ notoriety for indiscriminate killings. In June alone, for example, the group executed groups of Syrian journalists – some of whom were forced to operate laptops that had been turned into bombs.
Indeed, Murad herself received death threats from her former captors just days after being appointed a UN Ambassador. “Yes, I put my own life at risk,” she admitted to McFadden. “But I don’t have a life without giving hope to other victims.”
“It’s no joke,” Clooney added. “This is ISIS, and they have sent her very specific threats saying, ‘We will get you back.’” Following this, Clooney revealed that the group had even warned Murad, “We will do everything to you.”
However, Murad isn’t the only person under threat for taking on such an endeavor. As a result of her efforts, Clooney is not only putting her life on the line, but – as McFadden reminded her – also that of her husband George.
Nodding silently in response to McFadden’s queries, Clooney appeared to be overcome with emotion. And as she spoke about her film star husband – to whom she’s been married since 2014 – it seemed that she was trying hard to hold back the tears.
“We did discuss it and we are aware of some of the risks involved,” she responded. “He met Nadia too, and I think he was moved for the same reasons and he understood. I mean, this is my work.”
However, though the stakes are indeed high, Clooney couldn’t say no to Murad, and – after the pair had spent several hours together at Clooney’s home – the lawyer took on the case. “I don’t think anybody can feel that they’re being courageous compared to what Nadia’s doing… What she’s doing is amazing.”
Moreover, Murad reciprocates Clooney’s admiration and respect. During an interview with Women in the World earlier this year, Murad confessed that Clooney “did not talk to [her] as a well-known world figure.” The former captive revealed, “She talked to me as a sister and guardian. She has immense power that made me proud of being a woman.”
Since the start of their reign of terror, ISIS has been responsible for the deaths of over 5,000 Yazidi civilians as well as the abduction of countless more. And while bringing the group to justice will not be easy, thanks to the courage of people like Clooney and Murad, hopefully it can be done.