6 Oct 2014

Yazidi MP wins award for passionate defence of her people

Two months ago a passionate speech in the Iraqi parliament drew the world’s attention to the desperate plight of a people few outside had heard of: the Yazidis.

The Yazidi MP Vian Dakhil wept and collapsed as she exhorted not just Iraqis but the world beyond to save her people from Islamic State militants.

“Save us! Save us!” she cried. “For 48 hours, 30,000 families have been besieged in the Sinjar Mountains. Without water. Without food. They are dying.”

The passion and desperation of her speech caught the moment. The US and Britain, amongst other countries, began to fly humanitarian supplies to the Yazidis and help them off the mountain. Our correspondent, Jonathan Rugman, and camerawoman Philippa Collins, were on one of the aid helicopters.

The next day Ms Dahkil flew in the same helicopter – laden with supplies, it crashed and she was injured. The pilot lost his life. She has since recovered and carried on campaigning not just for the Yazidis but for women of all faiths who are being terrorised by jihadis from the Islamic State group.

In recognition of her bravery and determination, today Vian Dakhil has been awarded the Anna Politkovskaya award, named after the courageous Russian journalist who was murdered in 2006.

“Several courageous women lawyers, politicians and journalists in Iraq have been detained, disappeared or killed by Islamic state just because they were women who refused to be silenced or who dared criticise the regime of terror,” said the citation.

“Vian Dakhil continues to use her status and influence as a politician to support and protect those women and girls who lack the means to reach the outside world.”

As many as 3000 Yazidi women and girls may still be held by the jihadis – their fate is not known, but it is feared that some may have been raped or forced to convert to Islam.

Vian Dakhil is trying to ensure that no-one forgets them.

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