Yazidi women survivors of 'Islamic State' win EU's Sakharov human rights prize
A pair of Yazidi women's advocates have been awarded the European Parliament's Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. The 50,000-euro prize for human rights has been handed out since 1988.
Iraqis Nadia Murad and Lamiya Aji Bashar who hail from a Yazidi village in Iraq that was overrun by the self-styled "Islamic State" (IS) in 2014, were named on Thursday as recipients of the Sakharov Prize. They were nominated by European parliamentary deputies from multiple parties. The laureates' names were announced at about midday by European Parliament President Martin Schulz, and an award ceremony is slated for 14 December.
In a statement released on her personal blog, Murad said, "This acknowledgement of the suffering of Yazidi women and the Yazidi people is a profound message to the IS terrorist group that their criminal inhumanity is condemned and their victims are honoured by the free world. This is also a message from Europe to the world that Europe cares about human values and human dignity."
Murad also called for safe zones for Yazidis and other vulnerable communities, and requested that crimes committed by IS be tried at the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Between fear and annihilation: Yazidi refugees in Iraq
Thousands of Yazidis were trapped on Mount Sinjar after being forced to flee their homes by Islamic State terrorist militias. Many have fled to Syria; others have remained in Iraq. The US has provided food and water, although Washington no longer sees the need for a rescue mission. Their situation is desperate.
In search of protection: thousands of members of the Yazidi minority have fled an onslaught by the brutal fighters of the Islamic State (IS) terrorist militias. Those who managed to find shelter in a refugee camp in northern Iraq can count themselves lucky. Supplying refugees on Mount Sinjar with food and water is an extremely difficult task. Demands for more assistance from the West are increasing.
Mass exodus: the Yazidis have been almost completely driven out of the areas controlled by the IS jihadists, often with brutal force. Thousands fled to Syria, although some have since returned to Iraq, like here in Fishkhabour on the Iraqi-Syrian border.
Robbed, humiliated and traumatised: all too often, IS militiamen have robbed refugees of their money, valuables and passports. Many have nothing left but the clothes they are wearing. A great number of children have been traumatised by what they have experienced, and at least 500 Yazidis have been killed in the conflict.
Lack of basic necessities: tumult ensued as bottles of water were distributed to families of Yazidi refugees in northern Iraq. The provision of supplies to the refugees in the autonomous Kurdish regions is a massive logistical challenge.
The Red Crescent in action: members of the Kurdish Red Crescent are helping refugees near Mount Sinjar. Many refugees have been injured or are weak from the long journey, which many of them undertook on foot.
The conditions awaiting the Yazidi refugees in northern Iraq are in some cases appalling. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), a total of one million people all over Iraq have now fled their homes, including Yazidis and many Christians.
A little comfort in a frightening situation: the UN refugee agency UNHCR has set up provisional refugee camps across northern Iraq, including one near the city of Erbil. The refugees are pleased to have at least some fabric walls to call their own and happy to have been able to save a few personal belongings from their homes.
Supplies by helicopter: the US Air Force has been delivering food and water to the Yazidis on Mount Sinjar. The refugees urgently rely on these deliveries as they are otherwise completely cut off from the outside world. Pictured here: US soldiers prepare pallets of water for a humanitarian air drop
A crowd of refugees waited as an Iraqi helicopter came into land on 13 August. A planned large-scale rescue operation by the US army in the region was called off because the Pentagon concluded that there were considerably fewer refugees there than originally feared.
Hunger, thirst and fear for their lives: the UN estimates that some 1,000 people are still stranded on the mountain range. They are suffering from the heat and from a lack of water. There are also unconfirmed reports that IS jihadists have kidnapped around 100 Yazidi women and children from Mount Sinjar.
Women, children and the injured first: aid workers are trying to fly out the injured and the very weak, as well as women and children. Recently, a helicopter crashed during a rescue operation because it was carrying too many passengers.
Criticism of the West for its inaction: across Europe, members of the Yazidi community – including those pictured here in Hanover – are demonstrating for more support from the West. They are calling for more humanitarian aid and for weapons for the Kurds of northern Iraq to help them stop the advance of IS jihadists.
Thousands of Yazidi girls and women were forced into sex slavery by the extremist group in recent years. The two award winners managed to escape and raise global attention to rampant human rights abuses.
Murad, now aged 23, was held by IS militants in Mosul but escaped in November 2014, reached a refugee camp and eventually made her way to Europe. She has since become an advocate for the Yazidis, and refugee and women's rights in general.
Bashar, 18, was captured in the same raid as Murad and also kept as a sex slave by IS. She escaped in March but was badly disfigured and blinded in one eye when a landmine went off as she fled. Two companions were killed. She has since undergone reconstructive surgery and works as an advocate for members of the Yazidi sect.
The Yazidi are a religious sect whose beliefs combine elements of several ancient Middle Eastern religions. Hard-line Islamists consider them pagans or devil worshippers. The United Nations said in a report in June that IS had committed genocide against the Yazidis in Syria and Iraq to destroy the religious community of 400,000 people through killings, sexual slavery and other crimes.
Kurdish forces - with arms and air cover from the US-led military coalition - retook the mountainous Sinjar region in the end of 2014.
Other contenders this year included Turkish journalist Can Dundar, who was sentenced in absentia to more than five years in jail for publishing information about Turkish arms shipments to Syria. He is now exiled in Germany.
Crimean Tartar leader Mustafa Dzhemilev, a human rights activist and the former chair of the Tartar parliament in Crimea, was also a tapped as a possible winner. He has been barred from entering the Ukrainian peninsula since its annexation by Russia in 2014.
Last year's prize went to Raif Badawi, a Saudi blogger who was jailed and lashed after being found guilty of insulting Islam. Previous recipients include former South African president Nelson Mandela and Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
The award was created in 1988 to honour individuals or groups that defend human rights and fundamental freedoms. It was named for Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov. (AFP/dpa)
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