2016-10-27 18:59:00

Yazidi women receive EU's Sakharov Prize

(Vatican Radio) Two Yazidi women who escaped sexual enslavement by the the so-called Islamic State group in Iraq have won Europe's top human rights award, the Sakharov prize for their advocacy work.

Nadia Murad Basee and Lamiya Aji Basharwere among thousands of Yazidi girls and women abducted by IS militants and forced into sexual slavery in two years ago.

Listen to the report by Stefan Bos:

Its a long way from the luxurious surroundings in Brussels to receive the Sakharov award to where their ordeal began. They were abducted along with other Yazidi women in August 2014 when their home village of Kocho in northern Iraq was attacked by Islamic State militants as part of a wider campaign. 

Murad was captured alongside her sisters and lost six brothers and her mother, as the militants killed the village’s men and any women considered too old to be sexually exploited.

Aji Bashar, whose brother and father were killed by Islamic State fighters, was also used as a sex slave by the militants and forced to make bombs and suicide vests. 

Both eventually managed to flee and arrived in Germany and soon became voices of the voiceless.  


They now have won the European Union’s annual Sakharov human rights prize in memory of Andrei Sakharov, the outspoken Soviet physicist and dissident. Its awarded to “individuals who have made an exceptional contribution to the fight for human rights across the globe”.  

The two women were nominated by liberals in the European Parliament. Group leader Guy Verhofstadt described them as "inspirational women who have shown incredible bravery and humanity in the face of despicable brutality". And European Parliament President Martin Schulz said it was "a very symbolic and significant decision to support these two survivors who came to Europe as refugees".

The EU described Murad and Aji Bashar as “public advocates for the Yazidi community in Iraq, a religious minority that has been the subject of a genocidal campaign by IS militants.”

Yet Murad, who won the Council of Europe’s Václav Havel human rights prize earlier this month, says she will never forget the gang rape she endured and other abuses. "Most people die once in their lifetime, but we were dying every hour," she recalled. 

"Our hearts were constantly full of fear as we had no idea when they would come for us [to rape or abuse again]". However, she said, she never thought of killing herself. She makes clear that everyone should trust in God "regardless of the circumstances" they are in.   

Although some Yazidis have been rescued, the majority of those taken by Islamic State are still being held, with about 3,600 mostly women and children missing.  A United Nations commission said recently that about 5,000 Yazidi men were killed by the Sunni militant group which took control of Iraq's northwest two years ago and is now facing tough resistance from Iraqi forces and an international coalition. 

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