Escaped IS sex slaves win top EU human rights prize
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Escaped IS sex slaves win top EU human rights prize

Yazidi women Nadia Murad, Lamiya Aji Bashar honored with Sakharov award for efforts to protect Iraq’s vulnerable minority

Nadia Murad, human rights activist, testifying during a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, in Washington, DC, June 21, 2016 (AFP PHOTO / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / MARK WILSON)
Nadia Murad, human rights activist, testifying during a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, in Washington, DC, June 21, 2016 (AFP PHOTO / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / MARK WILSON)

STRASBOURG, France (AFP) — Two Yazidi women activists who escaped the Islamic State group in Iraq won the European Parliament’s prestigious Sakharov human rights prize on Thursday, European sources told AFP.

The prize will be awarded to Nadia Murad and Lamiya Aji 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 jihadists.

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

The prize, worth €50,000 ($55,000), will be presented at a ceremony on December 14 in Strasbourg.

Lamiya Aji Bashar, an 18-year-old Yazidi girl who escaped her Islamic State group enslavers, talks to The Associated Press in northern Iraq in this May 5, 2016 photo. (AP Photo/Balint Szlanko)

Murad, a slight, soft-spoken young woman, was taken by IS 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 IS jihadists 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.

Lived through a nightmare

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 IS fighters in Sinjar forced tens of thousands to flee and left an already vulnerable community under perilous threat.

A displaced Iraqi man from the Yazidi community carries his daughter as they cross the Iraqi-Syrian border at the Fishkhabur crossing, in northern Iraq, on August 11, 2014. (AFP/Ahmad Al-Rubaye)

UN investigators have said the IS 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.

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