Humanity is the Strongest Weapon We Have

By Emily Shaffer

For those who have been following the stories and individuals of Roads of Success, the name Ekhlas is not a new one. But for those hearing it for the first time, allow me to introduce her to you. Ekhlas Khudhur Bajoo is from Northern Iraq and currently lives in Southern Germany.  She is of the Yazidi ethnic and religious minority of which there is about 1 million people left in Iraq. She is a bright young girl in her early twenties who dreams of becoming a lawyer. But her story has been far from joyous over the years. When Ekhlas was 14, she watched her father murdered by ISIS. They then proceeded to take her as a sex slave for themselves in attempt to completely obliterate the Yazidi ethnic minority.

Ekhlas met Jacqueline Isaac, Attorney and Vice President of Roads of Success, a few years ago when she was a teenager. As Ekhlas desires to become a lawyer and bring justice to the Yazidi minority in Iraq, particularly the young girls who have been enslaved to ISIS, she has been taken under Jacqueline’s wing. Jacqueline has continued to mentor and care for Ekhlas, bringing her hope and guidance in speaking out against the injustice Ekhlas has seen and experienced first hand.

Together Jacqueline and Ekhlas have spoken before the UK Parliament, U.S. Congress, and the United Nations all across the globe. In their most recent adventure together, Jackie and Ekhlas went to Luxembourg along with Yvette Isaac, Founder and President of ROS, and other members of ROS. On March 26 and 27, the Grand Duchess of Luxembourg held an annual conference called Stand Speak Rise Up. The purpose of this event was to bring together leaders, advocates, and survivors to discuss and take action against victims of war. The topic specifically revolves around ending rape being used as a weapon of war.

Speakers for this event came from all around the globe, including fellow genocide survivor and advocate, Nadia Murad from Nadia’s Initiative. Our own Ekhlas Khudhur Bajoo was one of these speakers. We call her our Ambassador of Hope, being a spokesperson for survivors and persecuted ethnic minorities in Iraq who have faced the threat and violence of the Islamic State. We are incredibly proud of her and all that she has done and stood for despite the intense adversity she has faced in her life. Being our first student at ROS, she has set the tone and bar for students to follow.

Most recently, Ekhlas had the opportunity to speak at the Stand Speak Rise Up. She shared her story of surviving being a sex slave to ISIS but did not simply share a narrative of sorrow and tragedy. Ekhlas presented her story as one of hope, of perseverance, and the courage to continue onward.  “Why am I smiling?” she asked the audience. “The reason is you, for the humanity you represent. Humanity is the strongest weapon we have” (Quote from, “I’ll Stand and Fight Against Indignity”  by Natalie A. Gerhardstein).

Humanity is what keeps Ekhlas going. Humanity is what gives her hope for future. Humanity is what gives her the the strength to face tomorrow and continue to share her powerful story.

Ekhlas was able to tell her story in Luxembourg and she was not sharing it alone. This is were true strength and courage comes from- knowing that one does not have to face the injustices and heartaches of this world by themselves. Along with Nadia Murad (Iraq), Ekhlas was a part of a conversational panel indlucing Iryna Dovhan (Ukraine), Fulvia Chunganá Medina (Colombia), and Aline Munezero (Burundi), each survivors of sexual violence and warfare.

The Grand Duchess facilitated the discussion between these brave women. She began the event by sharing a hopeful statement in her opening speech: “If we cannot end war, let us at least end rape as a weapon” (Quote from, Survivors of Sexual Violence Share Stories of Heartbreak, Hope on First Day of Stand Speak Rise Up Event by JCA).

The two-day event was put together by the Foundation of The Grand Duke and The Grand Duchess. They also partnered with the Dr. Denis Mukwege Foundation and We Are Not Weapons of War (WWOW) non-profit. This impactful and influential event took place at the European Convention Center in Luxembourg hosted by Her Royal Highness, Maria Teresa.

This was a pinnacle moment for ROS, especially for Jacqueline, Yvette, and Ekhlas. Every chance to advocate for minorities and displaced people affected by ISIS in Syria and Iraq is always considered a victory for us. Not everyone who has been wounded by the traumatic impact of the Islamic State has the opportunity to speak out and share their story. However, that is our mission: to share the stories of those who cannot, including those who are no longer with us today. For justice and healing to be brought to Ekhlas’ story and ones like it, we must start a conversation about what is happening in the Middle East, particularly Iraq.

We are excited to continue to campion Ekhlas and our girls like her. After Ekhlas shared her compelling statement, “our smile and our humanity is the strongest weapon we have,” her words were met with a resounding applause from the entire audience. In the words of Yvette Isaac, “she brought the house down.” Through Stand Speak Rise Up, it has been made very clear that we are not the only ones in loving support of Ekhlas. The whole word is here to listen and campion Ekhlas as we continue to.


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