The pain of a broken leg from a helicopter crash pales in comparison with the suffering of her persecuted fellow-Yazidis, the 2014 winner of an award for women working in war-stricken countries said yesterday.
Vian Dakhil, the only ethnic Yazidi in Iraq’s parliament, has been awarded the annual Reach All Women in WAR (RAW in WAR) Anna Politkovskaya Award for campaigning for the protection of the Yazidi people, for refugees and those trapped in towns and villages controlled by the militant group Islamic State.
The politician, who survived a helicopter crash but broke a leg in August while delivering aid to Yazidis on Mount Sinjar in northern Iraq, said nothing would stop her campaign to save the Yazidi people “trapped in the grip of Islamic State”.
“We are peaceful people, but our men are being butchered, and our women and girls are being tortured, raped and taken as slaves,” Dakhil said in a telephone interview.
“I must make the world aware that there are still people who want to rule with the laws of the Dark Ages, by forcing us to change religion or be killed.”
Thousands of members of the Yazidi religious minority, and other Iraqis, have fled to Mount Sinjar in recent months to escape Islamic State fighters who have captured swathes of Iraq and Syria.
Dakhil gained international attention in August when she urged the Iraqi government to save the Yazidi community from persecution by Islamist militants.
Appealing for help from parliament, Dakhil said then that 30,000 families were besieged on Mount Sinjar without food or water.
Shortly afterwards a helicopter carrying Dakhil and taking aid supplies to the region crashed when a crowd of Yazidis tried to board it as it landed. Dakhil survived with a broken leg, but the pilot and dozens of others were killed.
Dakhil has kept up her work, drawing global attention to the suffering of Iraqis at the hands of Islamic State and calling for sanctuaries to be provided for the persecuted minorities.
“As soon as I regained consciousness following the operation on my broken leg, I was in constant contact with those carrying out the work to help the Yazidi people,” Dakhil said.
“I have sent messages to powerful women around the world, including Michelle Obama, and contacted women’s rights groups to ask for their support to pressure the Iraqi government to address the situation.”
RAW in WAR trustee Nathalie Losekolt said the award honoured those who put their lives at risk to stand up for women and girls across the world and praised Dakhil’s “outstanding bravery”.
“Vian is a remarkable woman, she doesn’t just speak out against atrocities, she delivers aid in person and does everything possible to help her people,” Losekolt said.
“This award strengthens the voices and supports the actions of women like Vian, and it is important that the world hears of her courage.”
The award marks the eighth anniversary of the killing of Anna Politkovskaya, the Russian investigative reporter who uncovered state corruption and rights abuses, especially in Chechnya.
She was shot dead in the lobby of her Moscow apartment block at the age of 48 on October 7, 2006.
RAW in WAR is a non-governmental organisation supporting women human rights defenders and female victims of war and conflict around the world.