This blog is an edited version of Vian Dakhil's acceptance speech for winning RAW in WAR's Anna Politkovskaya Award for women human rights defenders from war and conflict, Monday 6 October
Dear absent yet present Anna,
On the eighth anniversary of your unfortunate departure, violations of human rights and encroachment by governments, extremist organizations, radical parties and others on the freedom of human beings continue to occur every day. Perhaps at a rate that is faster than anyone could expect, particularly in our Middle East, which is afflicted with many social and political ills.
Perhaps you didn't hear, Anna, that there is a religious minority living mostly in Iraq (Kurdistan region) whose number throughout the whole world is nearly one million.
It is also likely that you didn't hear about the woes and massacre campaigns that they have sustained throughout the course of their history, unbeknownst to the vast majority of the world population inhabiting the seven continents.
My dear Anna, on August 3, 2014, the so-called Islamic State (ISIL) invaded the Sinjar region, located 124km to the west of Mosul province in Iraq. Sinjar is inhabited mostly by my fellow Yazidis. Perhaps many people have heard and learned about the massacres, displacement and kidnapping of women and children. But only a few know the details of what happened. Unfortunately, I think I won't be able to get enough time to summarize that heinous crisis, even partially.
There is a Yazidi woman who survived death and she is now looking for refugee shelters in Dohuk province. She has a list of 42 of her relatives who were all killed or kidnapped, including 20 girls who were captured and might have been sold to unknown parties inside or outside Iraq.
Six Yazidi girls who had been kidnapped hanged themselves to wash off the shame of rape in ISIL prisons in Mosul, according to Yazidi activists.
There are reports about three Yazidi sisters who committed suicide in ISIL prisons by way of cutting their wrists and bleeding to death to escape the hell of rape and humiliation.
Anna, could you believe that, in Koju village south of Sinjar, 700 people have been kidnapped, who were mostly women and children aged 12 years and below? As for the boys, they were 13 years and older, while the rest of the men were killed in cold blood, and there were 413 of them.
We have enough sad and painful stories to write several books, not one. But unfortunately, there are certain events for which there are no witnesses. We are confident that brutal atrocities have taken place and that entire families have been wiped out completely, either by killing or by kidnapping the young and married girls without mercy or sympathy, as if we were in the Dark Ages.
The second tragedy is that dozens of Yazidi girls kidnapped by ISIL in Mosul have been sold at $150 per girl. Also, dozens were sold in Syria, and all of them are being treated as maids.
The rest of the tragedy is that there are around 7,000 Yazidis who were either killed, injured or kidnapped or are missing, in addition to 2,500 Yazidi girls and women who are still languishing in various prisons inside Iraq. We don't know the number of times they have been raped or physically violated by ISIL elements who have flocked to our country from all over the world, including backward and civilized countries.
Rape is not the only thing that is endured by our prisoners; there is also a process that aims to force them to desert their religion and adopt Islam by force, and there are photos and documents to prove that. Some of them have been published by the terrorist group ISIL itself on its online website.
It is a pleasure for anyone to be honored with an award, but it is rare to see a Yazidi person who can feel happy from the bottom of their heart, due to the fact that our girls, women and children are in captivity as hostages of the most dangerous organization in the world.
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.
Many times I ask myself: are we really in the third millennium? Or are we living in the Middle Ages, a time when the law of the jungle reigns supreme and the strong does as it pleases to the weak, killing the latter's women, kidnapping them, selling them and forcing them together with their children to change their religion?
Anna, do you believe that this has happened and continues to happen in our countries?
Before Sinjar's catastrophe, we were demanding freedom, democracy and equality along with the rest of the Iraqis. But now, we are demanding that our prisoners be released and demanding to know the whereabouts of our people. And we are demanding international protection in the future.
As for rights and liberties, the two things for which you paid with your life, they are priorities that have been placed on the back burner for now, Anna. That is because we are living in a country where there are still people who want to rule us with the laws of the Dark Ages.
Vian Dakhil is the only Yazidi member of the Iraqi Parliament. Vian Dakhil has become the voice of the Yazidi community and demanded action for the hundreds of Yazidi women and girls who have been kidnapped by Islamic State, forced to convert to Islam or raped and sold into sexual slavery