Two Yazidi women who escaped sexual enslavement under the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) in Iraq received this year’s Andrei Sakharov Prize, Europe’s top human rights award.
Nadia Murad Basee and Lamiya Aji Bashar were among thousands of Yazidi girls and women abducted by IS militants and forced into sexual slavery in 2014. But both survived and now campaign for the Yazidi community.
The freedom of thought prize is awarded annually in memory of Andrei Sakharov, a Soviet scientist and dissident. The two women were nominated by the liberal Alde group in the European Parliament.
Murad was 19 and Bashar 16 when they were abducted from their respective homes in the village of Kocho, near Sinjar in Iraq.
The 19-year-old was taken to ISIS’s de facto capital in Iraq, Mosul, where she was tortured and raped.
She lost six brothers and her mother in the Sinjar assault in 2014. Kurdish forces ultimately pushed ISIS out of Sinjar over a year after it seized the strategic town. Sinjar, located north of Mosul, is the ancestral home of the Yazidi people.
Before being kept captive for 20 months and finally succeeding in escaping the terrorist group, Bashar attempted to flee several times, notes BBC.
Murad has been a prominent advocate in highlighting the plight of the Yazidis in Iraq since she escaped.
Guy Verhofstadt, leader of the Alde group, described the two award recipients as “inspirational women who have shown incredible bravery and humanity in the face of despicable brutality,” points out BBC.
It was “a very symbolic and significant decision to support these two survivors who came to Europe as refugees,” added Martin Schulz, president of the European parliament.
“We as [the] European parliament are now supporting them in their fight for, not only the dignity we have to grant to everybody, but also for their fight to give testimony as a witness to these atrocities,” also said Schulz.
Earlier this month, human rights watchdog group Amnesty International reported that the international community had abandoned and forgotten Yazidi survivors, including women and girls who escaped imprisonment and rape by the Islamic State, also known as IS.
“Tens of thousands of Yazidis were forced to flee their homes after IS fighters took the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar in August 2014,” reports BBC.
“Thousands of women and girls were treated as ‘spoils of war’ and openly sold in slave markets to IS militants,” it adds. “They were separated from the men and boys, many of whom were shot dead.”
According to a document submitted to the U.S. State Department as evidence of the sexual slavery by ISIS, the brutal jihadist group maintains a detailed store-like price list for selling kidnapped Christian and Yazidi girls, including 1-year-olds, as sex slaves.
United Nations officials have authenticated the price sheet, which was exposed as part of a 278-page investigative report submitted to the State Department earlier this year by the Knights of Columbus, the world’s largest Catholic fraternal organization, and the nonprofit In Defense of Christians.