NADIA AND LAMIYA WIN EU PEACE PRIZE
I first met Nadia Murad in February when I invited her to be the keynote speaker at an event I organised on ISIS crimes against humanity in the Parliament and was deeply moved by her testimony. You may know that in 2014 ISIS led raids against the Yazidi population in northern Iraq which resulted in the deaths of an estimated 5,000 civilians, the enslavement of more than 5,000 women and girls, and the displacement of 400,000 people from the Yazidi homelands. More than 3,500 women and 1,000 children remain imprisoned by ISIS.
At the event Nadia spoke of her horrific ordeal at the hands of her captors, the systematic rape and brutalisation of girls as young as six, the terror and the fear of the Yazidi women, her own failed escape attempt, her inhumane punishment and finally her successful escape and journey to Germany where she now lives. Even after escape, these women and girls must deal with the trauma of their experiences. A pioneering German humanitarian programme with a budget of €95 million, set up by the governor of the western state of Baden Wuerttemberg, is helping more than a 1,000 women and children, mainly Yazidis, come to Germany on a special visa to receive free psychological treatment from trauma experts. Such an inspiring programme cannot be replicated everywhere but shows us that communities can have an impact if we think outside the box.
Nadia has continued to travel the world tirelessly advocating for a global response to stop ISIS and hold them to account for their crimes in The Hague - an idea backed by the European Parliament in a recent resolution. Human rights lawyer Amal Clooney has taken Nadia’s case and will represent her in her bid for the UN Security Council to investigate ISIS’ many crimes against minorities, including the many mass graves scattered across northern Iraq. Nadia also recently visited Ireland and met with President Higgins at the Aras, the Tánaiste, Frances Fitzgerald and other political leaders.
I am proud to say following a nomination from myself and colleagues in my political group, ALDE, Nadia and another young Yazidi advocate, Lamiya Aji Bashar, were chosen as the 2016 winners for the European Parliament’s prestigious Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. The prize is awarded annually to individuals who have made an exceptional contribution to the fight for human rights across the globe. These young women came to Strasbourg last week to accept the award in one of the most emotional moments I have experienced in my time in the Parliament. These incredibly brave and determined young women epitomise the spirit of the Sakharov Prize fighting not only for justice for themselves and those who escaped but for those women and girls still held in enslavement. You can watch their truly moving testimonies here.
I will continue to support Nadia’s work both through my legislative role in the Parliament as well as at home through national avenues to see what role as policy makers we can play in the fight for women and girls which is something I will pursue in the New Year.
If you would like to read more about Nadia’s story or get involved with her work, you can visit her new website - http://www.nadiamurad.org/ - Nadia’s Initiative.