Ex-ISIS sex slaves win EU freedom prize

Ms Murad (in file photo above) and Ms Bashar won the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, an annual award which honours individuals and organisations that defend human rights and basic freedoms.
Ms Murad (in file photo above) and Ms Bashar won the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, an annual award which honours individuals and organisations that defend human rights and basic freedoms.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

BRUSSELS • The European Parliament has awarded its Sakharov Prize to two Iraqi Yazidi women who were held as sex slaves by ISIS militants and have campaigned for human rights since escaping.

Ms Nadia Murad and Ms Lamiya Aji Bashar were among thousands of women and girls abducted, tortured and sexually abused by fighters from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria after the militants rounded up Yazidis in the village of Kocho in north-west Iraq in 2014.

ISIS insurgents overran the nearby town of Sinjar in August 2014, killing, capturing and enslaving thousands of Yazidi inhabitants.

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

She has since become an advocate for the Yazidis, and refugee and women's rights in general, as well as a campaigner against human trafficking. She briefed the United Nations Security Council on the problem of human trafficking and last month launched an initiative to help genocide victims. She called for the massacre of Yazidis to be recognised as genocide.

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

Ms Bashar, 18, was captured in the same raid as Ms 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.

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

The Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, named after late Russian dissident and scientist Andrei Sakharov, is awarded yearly. Set up in 1988, it honours individuals and organisations that defend human rights and basic freedoms.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 28, 2016, with the headline 'Ex-ISIS sex slaves win EU freedom prize'. Print Edition | Subscribe