Two Yazidi women, Nadia Murad Basee and Lamiya Aji Bashar, who escaped sexual enslavement by the organization known as Islamic State or ISIS, accepted the European Union’s Sakharov Prize for human rights. Lamiya Aji Bashar, 18, yesterday (13 December) said the EU’s top human rights prize was one “for every woman and girl who has been sexually enslaved” by ISIS. Lamiya, who was herself sold four times by the Islamists, gave a very vivid testimony of the life of enslaved women in a speech that silenced EU leaders.
Nadia also delivered a speech on the genocide of the Yazidi people in Iraq. The common denominator of their testimonials was a demand that the international community protect their people, a minority of 500,000 living mostly in northern Iraq. They also demand that those responsible face an international court for war crimes.
Currently, hundreds of Yazidi women are still being held by ISIS throughout Iraq and Syria. The Yazidis are an ethnically Kurdish religious community. Their religion, Yazidism, combines elements of Zoroastrianism of ancient Mesopotamia, Islam, Christianity and Judaism. Yazidis are strictly endogamous, they are permitted to marry only within the religion and those who marry non-Yazidis are automatically considered to be converted to the religion of their spouse. Islamists groups consider the religion heretical and in the past there have often been persecuted as “devil worshippers“.
Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, established in 1988, is awarded to individuals who have made an exceptional contribution to the fight for human rights around the world, drawing attention to human rights violations as well as supporting the laureates and their cause. Last year’s winner was Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, who was accused of “insulting Islam through electronic channels” and eventually sentenced to 10 years in prison, 1000 lashes, and a fine.