Pitzer selects Nobel Peace Prize recipient Nadia Murad as 2023 Commencement Speaker

A drawing of an empty podium next to a banner with “2023” written on it. There is a group of students in graduation caps looking on, and cacti in the background. The whole image is drawn in an orange color palette, referencing Pitzer’s colors.
(Sasha Matthews • The Student Life)

Pitzer College has named 2018 Nobel Peace Prize recipient Nadia Murad as the 2023 commencement speaker. Murad is an Iraqi human rights activist committed to raising awareness around sexual violence and the Islamic State’s genocide against the Yazidi people, an indigenous Kurdish minority. 

In 2014, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) attacked Murad’s hometown of Sinjar, Iraq, where she — along with thousands of other Yazidi women — were kidnapped, tortured and subjected to sexual violence. In 2015, she testified about her experiences to the U.N. Security Council, delivering the committee’s first brief on human trafficking. In 2016, The U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime named Murad as the first goodwill ambassador for the dignity of survivors of human trafficking.

In 2018, Murad founded Nadia’s Initiative, an organization “dedicated to rebuilding communities in crisis and advocating globally for survivors of sexual violence.” The organization is currently focused on the redevelopment of Sinjar, which ISIS ravaged in their destruction of the Yazidi homeland. 

According to Wendy Shattuck, Pitzer’s assistant vice president of communications, Student Senate senior class representative Annemarie Gerlach PZ ’23 worked with peers to create a list of potential speakers. The Commencement Committee then selected Murad from this list. 

“[Nadia] is truly inspirational, and is a globally honored catalyst for life-long radical advocacy, resilience, healing, social justice in action,” Shattuck said to TSL via email.

In a statement to Pitzer’s Office of Communications, Murad expressed excitement at the opportunity to speak to the graduates.

“It is important for me that younger generations understand the crimes and brutality being done to the vulnerable in other parts of the world,” Murad said.

Pitzer’s Commencement ceremony will take place on May 13, 2023.

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