Two Yazidi survivors of ISIS win prestigious Sakharov human rights prize: Sources

Nadia Murad is one of two Yazidi women activists who have been awarded the European Parliament's prestigious Sakharov human rights prize for this year on Oct 27, 2016.
Nadia Murad is one of two Yazidi women activists who have been awarded the European Parliament's prestigious Sakharov human rights prize for this year on Oct 27, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

STRASBOURG, France (AFP) - Two Yazidi women activists who escaped the ISIS group in Iraq won the European Parliament's prestigious Sakharov human rights prize on Thursday (Oct 27), European sources told AFP.

The prize will be awarded to Nadia Murad and Lamia Haji Bashar during a session of the assembly in Strasbourg, France, the sources said shortly before the official announcement.

The women have become figureheads for the effort to protect the Yazidi community after having survived a nightmare in captivity at the hands of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants.

Their award is named after the dissident Soviet scientist Andrei Sakharov, who died in 1989, and is awarded every year to honour individuals who combat intolerance, fanaticism and oppression, often falling foul of their governments as a result.

The prize, worth 50,000 euros (S$76,609), will be presented at a ceremony on Dec 14 in Strasbourg.

Murad, a slight, softly spoken young woman, was taken by ISIS from her home village of Kocho near Iraq's northern town of Sinjar in August 2014 and brought to the city of Mosul.

As a captive of the reviled extremist group, Murad, who today is 23, said she was tortured and raped.

Bashar, who was just 16 when she was taken and is also from Kocho, witnessed family and friends being slaughtered by ISIS militants before being enslaved and sold.

After 20 months in captivity she escaped but then fell into the hands of an Iraqi hospital director who also abused and raped her and several other victims.

In a final tragedy, Bashar suffered horrific burns to her face and lost her right eye when one of her friends stepped on a landmine following their flight from the hospital director.

The 2014 massacre perpetrated against the Yazidis by ISIS fighters in Sinjar forced tens of thousands to flee and left an already vulnerable community under perilous threat.

UN investigators have said the ISIS assault on the Yazidis was a premeditated effort to exterminate an entire community - crimes that amount to genocide.

In speeches and interviews, Murad has voiced deep frustration with the international community for abandoning her people in the hands of grotesquely violent criminals.

Last year, the European Parliament awarded the prize to Saudi Arabian blogger Raif Badawi, jailed for "insulting" Islam.

Past winners include Pakistani education campaigner Malala Yousafzai, late South African rights icon Nelson Mandela and Myanmar activist Aung San Suu Kyi.

Exiled Turkish journalist Can Dundar and Crimean Tatar activist Mustafa Dzhemilev were also shortlisted for prestigious award.