The European Parliament’s 2016 Sakharov Prize will be awarded tomorrow (13 December) to Iraqi Yazidi survivors and activists. On this occasion, 104 MEPs signed a letter to the EU’s foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini, asking the EU to recognise the ISIS genocide against the Yazidis.
Yazidi activists Nadia Murad and Lamiya Aji Bashar, victims of sexual slavery carried out by Islamic State, won the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize last October. They will receive the prize during a ceremony in Strasbourg tomorrow.
Nadia Murad and Lamiya Aji Bashar belong to the Yazidi religious minority and were taken prisoner by jihadists in 2014 when ISIS captured their hometown of Sinjar; more than 200,000 people fled the area as a result.
The Yazidis are a religious sect whose beliefs combine elements of several ancient Middle Eastern religions but is considered Satanist by Salafi extremists like ISIS.
The two women survived the massacre, in which about 5,000 people were killed, but were captured and sold and resold numerous times as sexual slaves, before finally escaping to Germany, where they now speak on behalf of other victims of sexual violence perpetrated by ISIS.
The United States recognised the ongoing genocide of the Yazidis by ISIS in March this year, and the United Nations in June. The EU has not yet formally acknowledged this genocide; the European Parliament is the only EU institution to have done so in February 2016, asking EU member states to take action.
A UN report, based on interviews with dozens of survivors, said the Islamist militants had been systematically rounding up Yazidis in Iraq and Syria since August 2014, seeking to “erase their identity” in a campaign that met the definition of the crime as defined under the 1948 Genocide Convention.
“The genocide of the Yazidis is ongoing,” it said.
The 40-page report, They Came to Destroy: ISIS Crimes against the Yazidis sets out a legal analysis of Islamic State’s intent to wipe out the Kurdish-speaking group, whom the Sunni Muslim Arab militants view as infidels.
104 members of the European Parliament wrote to Mogherini, asking the EU to officially recognise the genocide targeting women and girls, and calling for prosecuting the perpetrators. The letter is signed by the leaders of the three pro-European groups (EPP, S&D and ALDE).
“International law calls for the recognition and suppression of ongoing genocide, and for the prosecution of perpetrators. After the world’s failures to stop genocide in Rwanda, the international community promised ‘never again’. We must not let that promise ring hollow to victims. The time for the European Union to speak out – and act – is now,” MEPs state.
The Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought was set up in 1998 and is awarded each year by the European Parliament to honour individuals and organisations defending human rights and fundamental freedoms. The prize is accompanied by an award of €50,000.
Last year, the prize was awarded to Raif Badawi. The Saudi blogger who has not been able to receive the prize in person is still in prison for hosting online posts that were considered blasphemous by Saudi authorities on his website.