The Malta Independent 6 December 2022, Tuesday
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EP brought to tears as Yazidi girls recall horror of sexual enslavement under Isis

Gabriel Schembri Tuesday, 13 December 2016, 13:47 Last update: about 7 years ago

Nadia Murad and Lamiya Aji Bashar are the winners for this year's Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. Following their survival, the two are now campaigning to raise awareness for women afflicted by the terrorist group's violence.

Addressing the ceremony and welcomed by a standing ovation, the two young women sobbed as they told their story of unimaginable suffering. Wearing traditional clothing of her village in Iraq, Lamiya Aji Bashar told MEPs and media present that this prize is dedicated to every woman who is still, until this very day, kept as sex slave under the claws of Isis.

"I was 15-years-old when Isis attacked my village. They killed my brother and father and took me together with hundreds of other girls, as slaves in the sex slaves market. Isis killed older women and those with disability because they thought they had no use. I was sold four times and every time I tried to escape, I was caught and tortured."

The last person, who bought Lamiya for sex, was a hospital director who raped young girls. "One day, my friend and I managed to escape. While running away, my friend walked over a land mine. Her screams as she died are the last thing I remember from that day," she said sobbing.

Lamiya survived, but not unscratched. "The blast and fire from the explosion engulfed me. I suffered severe burns and lost eye sight from one eye. It was when I managed to arrive in Germany that I was medically treated properly."

"I call on the EU to please promise me, that you will never allow for such a thing to happen. More than 3,500 children and women are still enslaved. Most of them will end up killed, but those in the sex slavery will be killed a thousand times over."

Turning to the people of Europe, Lamiya said that her neighbours betrayed her village and that is why they are asking for Europe to help. Nadia Murad said that her heart is full of happiness as she sees the support by the European Union. "They tried to dishonour us, but we came here to Europe and are honoured with such a price."

"Terrorism and radicalism are enemies of mankind," she said while recalling how Isis took her mother and killed her because Isis fighters thought she was of no use. She also thanked Germany for welcoming them and providing them with refuge together with medical and psychological care.

Murad and Bashar are advocates for the Yazidi community. They are both from Kocho, one of the villages near Sinjar in Iraq. Their village was taken by terrorists in the summer of 2014. They are only two of the thousands of abducted Yazidi women forced into sexual slavery.

The Sakharov Prize, named in honour of Soviet physicist and politician Andrei Sakharov, has been awarded every year since 1988 to individuals and organisations who contribute in the fight for human rights.

Among the shortlisted were Can Dundar, a prominent Turkish journalist and former editor and chief of a Turkish newspaper and Mustafa Dzhemilev, a Crimean Tartar activist and Ukrainian MP.

In his speech, European Parliament President Martin Shulz said that this award should serve as a vivid reminder of how the EU member states should offer their helping hand to those fleeing war and terrorism. Quoting the girls themselves, Mr Shulz said that it is not easy for the two women to relive their experience under Isis but "the world needs to know".

"There are entire villages being whipped out of the map and the world needs to act now. Those responsible of this genocide must be brought before international courts and pay the price." "Sometimes we do not dare lend a hand to those suffering and needing refuge, and for this we should be ashamed. Your struggle is our struggle," he told the girls in his concluding remarks.

The ceremony was followed by a press conference, the last one addressed by Mr Shulz before his term as EP President is ended. He said that the two girl's witness is an appeal to all of us as European to offer our help. "They kept on fighting and this is the most fascinating thing."

Murad and Bashar, who were also present at the press conference, said that the time to defeat Isis is upon us but defeating the terrorist group is not enough. "We must fight radicalism and racism if we want peace to survive."

Replying to questions by journalists, Mr Shulz said that the EU, on a member state level, can provide protection and said that the issue with migration will always remain a controversial issue. "I cannot imagine anyone who would listen to these stories without being willing to offer assistance."

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