Yazidi survivor of ISIS slavery aims to be 'voice' of her people

 (Left) Lamia Haji Bashar, pictured in Stuttgart, southwestern Germany, on Oct 28, 2016 and at (right) Nadia Murad pictured on June 21, 2016 testifying during a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, in W
(Left) Lamia Haji Bashar, pictured in Stuttgart, southwestern Germany, on Oct 28, 2016 and at (right) Nadia Murad pictured on June 21, 2016 testifying during a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, in Washington, DC . PHOTO: AFP

STUTTGART, Germany (AFP) - A Yazidi teenager who escaped the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group after nearly two years of enslavement said Friday (Oct 28) the prospect of one day becoming a "voice" for her community saw her through the nightmarish ordeal.

Lamia Haji Bashar, who on Thursday won the European Parliament's prestigious Sakharov human rights prize with another Yazidi survivor, told AFP she had long envisioned fleeing her jihadist captors, who had repeatedly raped, tortured and sold her.

"I had in front of my eyes how to escape from all these criminal people, (from) what was happening with all the women and girls," she said in an interview in Germany where she has been receiving medical treatment.

"To give my voice and be the voice of all these victims and get out - this was the big driving force for me to escape," she said, speaking Kurdish on the sidelines of an aid conference through a translator.

 

Bashar, who has deep facial scars and lost an eye due to horrific burns from a landmine during her escape, said the Sakharov prize had given her strength.

 

"I feel more powerful because now I feel that people are behind me. There are many people who have sympathy with what I am trying to do," she said, adding that she hoped to become a schoolteacher as well as an activist.

Bashar, 18, will share the honour with Nadia Murad, who was also abducted and enslaved by ISIS and has since become a global advocate for the Yazidi people.

The prize, worth 50,000 euros (S$76,200), will be presented at a ceremony on Dec 14 in Strasbourg.

"It is so important for me - not for me personally - it is important for those women and girls, victims of ISIS, whether they are still in captivity or have escaped," Bashar said.

"I will accept this award in the name of all these victims." Yazidis are followers of an ancient religion with more than half a million believers concentrated in northern Iraq.

According to UN experts, around 3,200 Yazidis are still being held by ISIS, the majority of them in war-ravaged Syria.