2016 Sakharov Prize awarded to Nadia Murad and Lamiya Aji, sexually enslaved by the Islamic State

The EU’s highest human rights honour went to two young women who escaped repeated violence and abuse at the hands of jihadists. Both are "inspirational women” because of their courage and humanity in the face of "despicable brutality”. Today they are campaigning for the rights of their community.

Strasbourg (AsiaNews) – The European Parliament awarded the 2016 Sakharov Prize to two Yazidi women who escaped sexual enslavement imposed on them by the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq.

The European Union’s highest human rights reward went to Nadia Murad Basee and Lamiya Aji Bashar (pictured), who were among the thousands of Yazidi youth and women victims of IS sexual violence and enslavement in the summer of 2014.

Yazidis, a non-Muslim ethno-religious minority in Iraq, are among those who suffered the most from the crimes committed by extremist IS Sunni militias, akin to genocide according to some.

Both Nadia Murad Basee and Lamiya Aji Bashar managed to survive and are now campaigning internationally for the rights of their community.

MEP* Guy Verhofstadt described the winners as "inspirational women who have shown incredible bravery and humanity in the face of despicable brutality".

"I am proud that they have been awarded the 2016 Sakharov Prize," he added.

Murad was abducted from her home in the village of Kocho, near Sinjar, and taken to Mosul, where she was tortured and raped. She later managed to flee, but lost six brothers and her mother in the Sinjar assault.

Bashar, also from Kocho, attempted to flee her captors several times during her 20 months in captivity before she finally succeeded. She was just 16 when she was abducted.

The Sakharov Prize comes with a € 50,000 (US$ 55,000) monetary award, and is considered the EU’s most important human rights prize, the European equivalent of the Nobel Prize for Peace.

Named after Soviet scientist and dissident Andrei Sakharov, the prize has been given to people like Nelson Mandela, Aung San Suu Kyi, and, in 2013, Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai.

Last year the prize went to Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, who is currently serving a ten-year prison sentence which includes 1,000 lashes for "insulting Islam" online and a US$ 210,000 fine.

When the prize was awarded, European Parliament speaker Martin Schulz launched an unsuccessful appeal for Badawi’s release. 

* Member of the European Parliament.