Ezidi Women Receive Sakharov Prize From Eu Parliament

Ezidi Women Receive Sakharov Prize From Eu Parliament

The European Parliament held a ceremony on Tuesday (December 13), a month after it awarded its Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought to two Iraqi Ezidi women who were held as sex slaves by Islamic State (ISIS) militants and now campaign for human rights.

Nadia Murad and Lamiya Aji Bashar were among thousands of women and girls abducted, tortured and sexually abused by ISIS fighters after the militants rounded up Ezidis in the village of Kocho, near Sinjar in northwest Iraq, in 2014.

The Ezidi are a religious sect whose beliefs combine elements of several ancient Middle Eastern religions. ISIS considers them devil-worshippers.

ISIS insurgents overran Sinjar in August 2014, systematically killing, capturing and enslaving thousands of Ezidi inhabitants

Murad, now aged 23, was held by ISIS in Mosul but escaped her captors in November 2014, reached a refugee camp and eventually made her way to Germany.

She has since become active as an advocate for the Ezidis, refugees and women's rights in general, as well as campaigning against human trafficking.

She has briefed the U.N. Security Council on the problem of human trafficking and last month launched "Nadia's Initiative" to help victims of genocide. She has called for the massacre of Ezidis to be recognized as genocide.

Bashar, 18, was captured in the same raid as Murad and also kept as a sex slave by ISIS. 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.

"The Sakharov prize gives me great strength and this is why I have taken a decision to become a voice for the voiceless. The Ezidis have been victims of extremism, of violence and terrorism. They have lost their lives but I very much ask you and urge you to promise me, to promise us that never again will you allow these kinds of things to happen, that you will listen to us and see that justice will be done so that the criminals will be brought to justice and held accountable," Bashar told the European Parliament

She now lives in Germany, where she has undergone treatment for her wounds, and works as an advocate for the Ezidis.

"The two women who sit up here, Lamiya Aji Bashar and Nadia Murad, are heroines. They have suffered unspeakable atrocities, survived captivity, and they have fled and found exile. They have overcome fear and suffering and finally found refuge and protection with us here in Europe," European Parliament president Martin Schulz told the European Parliament in his address.

Mass Ezidi graves have been uncovered in the area north of Sinjar mountain, which was taken from IS in Dec. 2014. Kurdish forces retook Sinjar town in November 2014 in a two-day offensive backed by air strikes from a U.S.-led coalition.

The Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, named after the late Russian dissident and scientist Andrei Sakharov is awarded each year by the European Parliament. Set up in 1988, it honors individuals and organizations defending human rights and basic freedoms.