Posts Tagged ‘Yazidi’

Patrick Desbois, French priest who uncovered Nazi killings, awarded Lantos prize

November 10, 2017

Father Patrick Desbois speaks after being awarded the Lantos Human Rights Prize on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on October 26, 2017. (Chris Kleponis)

Father Patrick Desbois speaks after being awarded the Lantos Human Rights Prize on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on October 26, 2017. (Chris Kleponis)

Father Patrick Desbois, a Roman Catholic clergyman, whose work has uncovered millions of previously unknown victims of the Nazi genocide was awarded the Lantos Foundation’s Human Rights Prize. The Lantos Human Rights Prize is an annual award given by the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice, an organization founded by Tom and Annette Lantos, who were both Holocaust survivors. For more on the award see: http://trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/lantos-human-rights-prize.

Father Patrick Desbois, who teaches at Georgetown University’s Program for Jewish Civilization, was recognized during a reception on Capitol Hill as a “vital voice standing up for the values of decency, dignity, freedom, and justice.” His scholarly reportage on the Holocaust has focused on the Jews who were killed by mass shootings by Nazi units in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Poland, Moldova and Romania between 1941 and 1944. In 2004, Desbois founded Yahad-In Unum, a French organization whose sole mission was to locate the mass graves of Jewish victims from Nazi paramilitary death squads. These regiments were responsible for the mass killings of Jews, often by shooting and primarily in the former Soviet Union.

His first book, “Holocaust by Bullets: A Priest’s Journey to Uncover the Truth behind the Murder of 1.5 Million Jews,” was based on that work and the culmination of its discoveries. Desbois has another book — a memoir on his life as an anti-genocide activist and Holocaust scholar — due for publication in 2018.

Other than uncovering unknown truths about the Nazi’s killing operation, Desbois has also been working on collecting evidence of the Islamic State’s massacre of the Yazidi people in parts of Iraq and Syria. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/02/09/collecting-human-rights-prize-yazidi-lawmaker-calls-trumps-travel-ban-unfair/]

Source: French priest who uncovered Nazi killing sites awarded Lantos rights prize | The Times of Israel

Collecting human rights prize, Yazidi lawmaker calls Trump’s travel ban ‘unfair’

February 9, 2017

Iraqi lawmaker Vian Dakhil speaks after receiving the Lantos Human Rights Prize at a Capitol Hill ceremony on Feb. 8, 2017. RNS photo Adelle M. Banks

Iraqi lawmaker Vian Dakhil at the Lantos Human Rights Prize ceremony, 8 February  2017 – RNS photo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last week I wrote about an award-winning human rights defender not being able to come and collect her award in the USA [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/02/01/yazidi-human-rights-laureate-may-be-banned-from-coming-to-washington-to-accept-award/].  Vian Dakhil made it to Washington in the end. She had already received a visa to come to Washington to accept an award from the Tom Lantos Foundation when President Donald Trump’s executive order pausing immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries, including Iraq, was issued. After an arduous process involving the State Department and the Iraqi Embassy, she was granted an exemption to the travel ban so she could attend the award ceremony on 8 February. Her sister and translator was able to get a visa after a federal judge temporarily halted the implementation of the executive order. Read the rest of this entry »

Yazidi human rights laureate may be banned from coming to Washington to accept award

February 1, 2017

The idiocy of Trump’s recent executive orders on immigration is probably not better illustrated than by the case of Vian Dakhil (Yazidi MP in Iraq and ‘Isil’s most-wanted woman’). She may be barred from from coming to Washington to accept the Lantos Human Rights Prize.

Vian Dakhil answers questions during an interview in September 2014 CREDIT: AFP

Vian Dakhil was set to receive the Lantos Human Rights Prize at the US Capitol in Washington DC for her “courageous defence” of the Yazidi people as they faced mass genocide two years ago at the hands of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil). However, as a carrier of an Iraqi passport she is unlikely to be allowed to enter the country next week despite holding a US visa.  “It is not clear yet if I will travel or not,” Mrs Dakhil, 46, said. “The decision was a complete surprise.” The Lantos foundation dubbed her “ISIS’s most-wanted woman”. She used her position in parliament to inform the world of the atrocities being committed against the Yazidi people

 wrote in the Washington Post of 30 that Vian Dakhil was set to receive the Lantos Human Rights Prize at the U.S. Capitol on 8 February 2017. The prize is given by the foundation named after the late Tom Lantos, a Holocaust survivor who championed human rights for decades while serving in the U.S. Congress. Dakhil’s case is a startling example of how the executive order signed by President Trump is having unintended consequences and ensnaring not only those who have no links to terrorism but also those who have risked their lives to fight terrorism in cooperation with the United States. “It adds a deep level of irony that this award is given in the name of my late father, the only Holocaust survivor ever to be elected to Congress,” said Katrina Lantos Swett, the president of the foundation. “He exemplified how America is strengthened and enriched by immigrants and refugees. I assure you he is turning in his grave at this.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Sakharov Prize 2016 went ultimately to two Yazidi women

November 1, 2016

 On 26 October it was announced that Nadia Murad and Lamiya Aji Bashar are the 2016 laureates of the EU’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought although Crimean Tatar Mustafa Dzhemilev was in the lead.

Nadia Murad Basee Taha and Lamiya Aji Bashar are survivors of sexual enslavement by Islamic State (IS) and have become spokespersons for women afflicted by IS’s campaign of sexual violence. They are public advocates for the Yazidi community in Iraq, a religious minority that has been the subject of a genocidal campaign by IS militants.

On 3 August 2014, IS slaughtered all the males in the village of Kocho, Aji Bashar and Murad’s hometown in Sinjar/Iraq. Following the massacre, women and children were enslaved: all young women, including Aji Bashar, Murad and their sisters were kidnapped, bought and sold several times and exploited as sex slaves. During the Kocho massacre, Murad lost six of her brothers and her mother, who was killed along with 80 older women deemed to have no sexual value. Aji Bashar was also exploited as a sex slave along with her six sisters. She was sold five times among the militants and was forced to make bombs and suicide vests in Mosul after IS militants executed her brothers and father.

In November 2014, Murad managed to escape with the help of a neighbouring family who smuggled her out of the IS-controlled area, allowing her to make her way to a refugee camp in northern Iraq and then to Germany. A year later, in December 2015, Murad addressed the UN Security Council’s first-ever session on human trafficking with a powerful speech about her experience. In September 2016, she became the first United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Goodwill Ambassador for the Dignity of Survivors of Human Trafficking, participating in global and local advocacy initiatives to raise awareness around the plight of the countless victims of trafficking. In October 2016, the Council of Europe honoured her with the Václav Havel Human Rights Prize. [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2016/10/18/yazidi-survivor-nadia-murad-wins-vaclav-havel-human-rights-prize-2016/]

Aji Bashar tried to flee several times before finally escaping in April with the help of her family, who paid local smugglers. On her way over the Kurdish border, and while racing towards Iraq’s government-controlled territory with IS militants in pursuit, a landmine exploded, killing two of her acquaintances and leaving her injured and almost blind. Luckily she managed to escape and was eventually sent for medical treatment in Germany, where she was reunited with her surviving siblings. Since her recovery Aji Bashar has been active in raising awareness about the plight of the Yazidi community and continues to help women and children who were victims of IS enslavement and atrocities.

However, UNPO reports that there is some controversy over the decision as Crimean Tatar politician and human rights activist Mustafa Dzhemilev seemed to have had a majority in the first round.  This may lead to questions about interpreting its procedures (http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sakharovprize/en/home/how-it-works.html). See also: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2016/09/16/european-parliaments-sakharov-prize-2016-nominees-announced/

Sources:

Sakharov Prize

http://www.unpo.org/article/19602

European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize 2016: nominees announced

September 16, 2016

The European Parliament awards the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought every year to honor individuals and organisations defending human rights and fundamental freedoms. Nominations for the Sakharov Prize are made by political groups or by at least 40 MEPs. The 4 nominees for this year’s Sakharov Prize are:

Can Dündar, the former editor-in-chief of Turkish daily Cumhuriyet, was arrested last November after his newspaper reported on Turkey’s intelligence service smuggling arms to rebels in Syria. He was later sentenced to five years and 10 months in prison for “revealing state secrets”, survived an assassination attempt and now lives in exile. He was nominated by Greens/EFA, EFDD and GUE/NGL.

Mustafa Dzhemilev, former chair of Mejlis of the Crimean Tatars People (Tatar parliament), a former Soviet dissident and a Ukrainian MP, has been standing up for human and minority rights for more than half a century. He was six months old when he and his family were deported to central Asia along with all other Crimean Tatars and was only able to come back 45 years later. Now, after Russia annexed Crimea, the human rights activist is again barred from entering the peninsula. He was nominated by EPP and ECR.

Nadia Murad Basee and Lamiya Aji Bashar are advocates for the Yazidi community and for women surviving sexual enslavement by Islamic State. They are both from Kocho, one of the villages near Sinjar, Iraq, which was taken over  by Islamic State in the summer of 2014, and are among the thousands of Yazidi girls and women abducted by Islamic State militants and forced into sex slavery. Murad is also a promoter for recognition of the Yazidi genocide. They were nominated by S&D. Murad Basee was also nominated separately by ALDE.

Ilam Totti, a peaceful advocate of China‘s Uyghur minority,  is serving a life sentence in prison. He was convicted on charges of “separatism” for co-founding the website Uyghur Online, designed to promote understanding between Uyghurs and Han Chinese. He was nominated by MEP Ilhan Kyuchyuk and 42 other MEPs. Ilam Totti – also spelled as Ilham Totti – was announced on 27 April as one of the Final Nominees of the MEA [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2016/04/27/breaking-news-final-nominees-2016-martin-ennals-award-tohti-zone-9-bloggers-razan-zaitouneh-annoucement/]

The vote for the shortlist of three finalists will be held during a joint meeting of the foreign affairs and development committee. The Conference of Presidents, made up of the Parliament President and the political group leaders, will announce the winner(s) of the 2016 Sakharov Prize on 27 October.

For more on the Sakharov award: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/sakharov-prize/

Source: Sakharov Prize 2016: nominees revealed | News | European Parliament

Conversation with Yanar Mohammed on trafficking in Iraq

May 19, 2016

The Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq focuses on protecting women’s human rights, including fighting against trafficking of women and girls, and operates six safe houses for women survivors of violence. The Global Fund for Women interviewed its President, Yanar Mohammed who speaks about her work and the impact from the conflict with ISIS.

Yanar, you’ve been an activist and a defender of women’s rights in Iraq for over 13 years. What do you think are the main challenges women in Iraq are facing right now?
We focused in the last year on working against trafficking in women and girls and expanding a new network, the Network of Anti-Trafficking of Women in Iraq. We started the network in 2013, barely nine months before ISIS began gaining ground in Iraq. As ISIS grew, they started their attacks against women in the north of Iraq, including against the women of Yazidi faith. They trafficked them in broad daylight.

Trafficking in women and girls is now a tactic used by opposing groups in instances of sectarian violence in Iraq. Women and girls are looked upon as the representatives of a community’s honor, and so the sexual exploitation of women and girls belonging to a certain community is seen as the most effective way to humiliate and break it. Unfortunately, it is therefore not a surprise that the so-called Islamic State, ISIS, as a Sunni group, has targeted non-Sunni Muslim women and girls such as Shi’a Muslims, Christians, and Yazidis. Retaliations ensue and wars are led on women’s bodies.

When ISIS began to enslave women, we found that this was the time when we should rise to the occasion and highlight the issue of trafficking in society and the government. This is an issue that needs to be addressed by laws, practices, programs, and by some understanding from the society as to what it means that a woman gets compromised, gets exploited, and gets enslaved. So we set up this network, which is now about 40 NGOs working together on the issue. We began to talk about trafficking in women and girls, especially sexual exploitation, and address it as something that’s not only happening under ISIS but also happening in Iraq more broadly, without anybody daring to give it any importance.

Beyond ISIS, orphans and widows of war in Iraq who are extremely impoverished have fallen prey to sexual exploitation. They are being used and exploited and violated daily in Iraq, without anybody thinking of it as a human rights issue. So this is our focus; we have decided we will work on this until we get the government to pass laws that make the suffering of these women less, and also that open the way for us to protect the women from this kind of violence.

Is there any legislation right now against trafficking?
We demanded that the government pass a law for the financial support of Yazidi women when they step out of their enslavement. When they come back to areas of Iraq that are not under ISIS control, they should be compensated just like prisoners of war for the sufferings they went through. And we were so happy when it took only a few months and the Iraqi government decided to give monthly stipends for survivors in May 2015. That was the first success of the network. At the time nobody else had demanded this kind of support for ISIS survivors, so we felt that we were on the right track and that we should proceed to the rest of our demands that we needed in order to address violence against women.

What would you say is the level of public awareness around the issue of trafficking?
We have struggled a lot to make many words and terms debatable in our society—to remove the taboo. I will give you an example: in 2003 when we began to talk about honor killings and how it needs to stop, everybody was disgusted with us and saying that women’s groups should refrain from speaking about taboo and sexual issues, and that we do not address women’s rights in a way that they find acceptable. It took us almost 5 years to make discussion of honor killings a mainstream argument. Now when you go to Iraq, the issue of honor killing has become such a regular thing to talk about. There are so many NGOs that are standing against it, talking about it, are lobbying against it. Whenever we have an issue like this, we find ourselves the first ones on the front lines to address it until, it becomes a mainstream argument. Now as we talk about trafficking and discuss sexual exploitation of women and girls this issue is a very taboo and difficult issue to address.

How many women and girls in Iraq are at risk of being trafficked?
The dilemma of displacement in Iraq is huge because of ISIS. The number of displaced people is two million, going to three million. Most of these are women, because the men are either in the Iraqi army fighting ISIS or have been recruited into militias also heading to fight ISIS, or stuck in the cities defending them. It may be impossible to give the exact number, but we can estimate that out of the 1.5 million women who are displaced, half of them are between ages 16 and 30—the biggest age group at risk of trafficking. So I would say not less than 100,000 women are being trafficked at this point in Iraq.

So the political instability caused by ISIS is increasing the threat of trafficking for women and girls, even if ISIS is not doing the trafficking directly.
Yes. ISIS has created the most ugly reality of trafficking, where they defend it as a religious right. They say it is their right to enslave the “spoils of war” who are not of Muslim faith. They describe them as faithless and as less of human beings whose enslavement makes them better, makes them closer to Islam. ISIS has brought an example that has totally shocked the region and shocked it in a way as to taking us back to a time when people had no human rights, basically. And they are trying to make it a fact to force on the people of Iraq, Syria, and maybe other places if they are allowed to expand.

Can you tell me about the shelters that your group runs?
Our shelters are currently keeping safe women who survive trafficking. They are also getting educated; our shelters are not only a place for women to rest and be safe, they are also schools for social transformation for women to turn from victims into defenders of women. We only had one shelter until 2008; since then we have expanded to have six shelters all over the country. We also have a pipeline from the southern city of Busra, to direct violated women to our shelters in Baghdad. And we have many supporters in the network of the 40-plus NGOs, who are our eyes and ears in more than nine cities in Iraq and are guiding women who are in need of shelter to us. I like to put it in a very short story: our organization was able to spread its wings over most of the Iraqi cities in the last few years.

However, the Iraqi government is not facilitating our undertaking of women into our shelters. And it boils down to one point—we need a piece of legislation from the Iraqi government to provide legal status to shelters that are run by NGOs or other private sector groups. Although the government does not have a law that says that our shelters are illegal, they do have a law that allows the ministry of social affairs to determine if they should stay open. So some of the tribal and misogynist officials did tell us in the past that we are doing an illegal thing, but they did not shut us down.

So, although we are protecting women from trafficking and domestic violence and all that—although we are doing the duty of the government, the duty the government is not taking seriously and do not want to move on, and although they should be supporting us and applauding us for doing their job, in reality they confront us, telling us that our sheltering of women is promoting promiscuity, that it is encouraging women to go against their families and have full sexual freedoms and come stay in our shelters. So some governmental officials have intimidated us in the past, telling us we are doing something illegal, when we are protecting women.

What can the international community do to help Iraqi women be empowered and experience less violence?
We are asking the international community to ask the legal committee in the Iraqi parliament to legislate for the legal status of our shelters. Letters that are addressed to the Iraqi parliament—and specifically to the legal committee of the Iraqi parliament—asking them to legislate for the legal status of women’s shelters that are run by the NGOs. This would be a great help to us.

Would you say that action now is especially important to protect women? Is right now a critical moment?
Right now is a very critical moment because ISIS is at the point where it can be defeated. It has lost the social support of those among the Sunni groups in Western Iraq that were supporting it because people saw the atrocities that ISIS can commit against them. It is a very special moment in time to act against ISIS, but is the kind of action we are seeking a military one, where we have more US army in Iraq? No.

Our experiences of the last 13 years tell us that US intervention in Iraq never brought us anything good. It always has caused more deterioration. Now is the time to have a political intervention, and to ask the Iraqi government to stop its sectarian, politics that gave way to ISIS, as well as empower the Iraqi army so that they can regain the cities that were taken by ISIS.

What are some of the other forms of violence that women come up against in Iraq?
We have many kinds of violence we undergo, and we know what is making this kind of violence worse, which is Islamist extremist parties reaching power. Some of these parties have shown us a terrible example of what they want to bring to Iraq, including legislating for Jaafari law. This law allows the marriage of a 9-year-old girl to an adult man—in other words it legalizes pedophilia in Iraq. It also allows men to be polygamous, and allows for getting rid of wives if they are not sexually pleasant for husbands.

The amount of humiliating material in this law against women is incredible, and out of this era. It’s something that modern humanity cannot even bear to hear of. We must keep this legislation outside of parliament, because the law was not passed, but it is still waiting for us. The Islamist political parties are just waiting for some stability and for the moment when they feel stronger to bring back this legislation. And that would really be the end for Iraqi women.

Source: In Conversation: Yanar Mohammed on trafficking in Iraq – Global Fund for Women

Kurdish Yazidi Woman Wins Anna Politkovskaya Award

October 11, 2014

More on awards: The winner of the 2014 Raw in War Anna Politkovskaya award is Kurdish Yazidi member of Iraq parliament Vian Dakhil .On Monday 6 October, RAW in WAR (Reach All Women in WAR) selected Vian Dakhil who has courageously spoken out and campaigned to protect the Yazidi people from the terror of Islamic State. She is the only ethnic Yazidi in the Iraqi Parliament and, despite being injured in a helicopter crash while delivering aid to survivors on Mt Sinjar, she continues to advocate and to mobilize support for her people, for the refugees and for those trapped in towns and villages under the regime of Islamic State. “I make no secret of the fact that I’m proud to be honored with your esteemed award, but the real way to honor someone is by protecting their freedom and rights. It is by bringing our prisoners back,’ said Dakhil in her speech while receiving the award.

Previous women human rights defenders who received this award: Malala Yousafzai 2013, Marie Colvin 2012, Razan Zaitouneh 2011, Dr. Halima Bashir 2010, Leila Alikarami on behalf of the One Million Signatures Campaign for Equality in Iran 2009, Malalai Joya 2008 and Natalia Estemirova 2007. See also: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards

via Kurdish Yazidi Woman Wins International Award | BAS NEWS.