"Islamic State survivors and Iraqi Yazidi activists Nadia Murad and Lamiya Aji Bashar received today Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. The two women were honoured by Parliament for standing up for the persecuted Yazidi minority and the victims of sexual violence by Islamic State," the European parliament said in a statement.
Both activists held acceptance speeches in the European Parliament condemning atrocities committed by the Islamic State (ISIL or Daesh) jihadist group in Iraq and calling on the European Union to help the Yazidi people who suffered from the IS terror.
"Today, my community has disintegrated under the weight of genocide. There is no doubt Daesh [Arabic acronym for IS] committed mass genocide. This genocide did not only consist of killings, it also sought to enslave women in a systematic manner and to take children," Murad said.
Murad and Aji Bashar, as well as many other women, were kidnapped and enslaved on August 3, 2014, after the Daesh had attacked their hometown in Sinjar, Iraq and massacred all men. The women were later subjected to sexual exploitation and sold as slaves several times.
Murad was able to escape in November 2014 with the help of a neighboring family, who smuggled her out of the Daesh-controlled area, after she reached a refugee camp in northern Iraq. She later managed to migrate to Germany.
In December 2015, she addressed the UN Security Council in its first session on human trafficking and later became a UN Ambassador for the Dignity of Survivors of Human Trafficking and began to raise awareness about the plight of countless victims of trafficking. She was later awarded the Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize by the Council of Europe in October 2016.
Aji Bashar almost died when she was trying to run away from her Daesh captors, when a land mine exploded and killed two of her acquaintances and left her injured and almost blind. She was later saved and sent for medical treatment in Germany, where she reunited with her surviving siblings.
Thousands of Yazidis were killed and up to 7,000 women were enslaved by Daesh militants after they took over the city of Sinjar in northern Iraq in August 2014 before it was liberated in December 2015.
The Yazidis are an independent religious community concentrated primarily in northern Iraq.
The Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought was set up in 1988 and is awarded annually by the European Parliament to honor individuals and organizations that defend human rights and fundamental freedoms.