Honouring the bravery of Yazidi women captured by ISIS
14 December 2016
I was highly moved that yesterday, two extraordinary Yazidi women, Nadia Murad and Lamiya Aji Bashar were awarded the '2016 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of thought' by the European Parliament. At just 23 and 19 years old, they have each faced horrendous experiences at the hands of the Islamic State.
Both Nadia and Lamiya come from the village of Kocho, in the Sinjar region of Iraq. On the 15th of August 2014, their village was attacked by the Islamic State. The men and older women were executed. Young women were forced to convert to Islam and were sold into sex slavery. This massacre destroyed families and prompted hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Yazidis - one of the oldest Christian communities in the world - to flee.
Nadia and Lamiya have now fortunately found refuge in Germany, but their stories are deeply harrowing. Tragically, Nadia lost her six brothers and her mother in the IS assault. She luckily escaped thanks to a neighbour. Now 23, she is bravely travelling the world to tell her story. Nominated UN special ambassador for the victims of human trafficking, she has become a figurehead in her fight to get the massacre of the Yazidi minority in Iraq recognised as genocide. Right now, 3000 Yazidi women are still being held captive by the Islamic State in Iraq.
Lamiya, who is now just 19, was separated from her family and spent 20 months under capture of the Islamic State. It was while fleeing her torturers that she was hit by a landmine, leaving her face badly burned. She has now found refuge in Germany, where she lives with her sisters. However, she still has no news about her parents. You can watch their stories here.
In her speech yesterday, Nadia said "We see Europe as a symbol of humanity, and Europe is indeed confirming that today. Europe must remain as model for the world and a model for the coexistence of peoples and cultures." The EU ideal was born out of the ashes of a Europe destroyed, marred by genocide and barbarity. Now it is our duty to help the shattered people of Syria find a similar way back to peace.