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Award for brave woman at the heart of conflict over rights

Today, Monday 6th October, RAW in WAR (Reach All Women in WAR) celebrates the courage of Vian Dakhil, a Yazidi member of the Iraqi Parliament, who has courageously spoken out and tirelessly campaigned to protect the Yazidi people from the terror of Islamic State.

Ahead of the anniversary of Anna Politkovskaya’s murder on Tuesday 7th October, RAW in WAR honours Vian Dakhil with the 2014 Anna Politkovskaya Award for her courage to speak out and to give a voice to
the many Yazidi and Iraqi women and girls whose voices cannot be heard.

Vian Dakhil, the only ethnic Yazidi in the Iraqi Parliament, has bravely drawn attention to the fate of the Yazidi people 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.

On accepting the award Vian Dakhil said: “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.”

A spokewoman said: "The RAW in WAR Nominations Committee for the 2014 Anna Politkovskaya Award is deeply humbled by Vian Dakhil's  courage to become the voice of the Yazidi community and by her determination  to campaign for the protection of all Yazidi and other Iraqi women under Islamic State, despite the danger she is facing as a Yazidi woman politician opposed  to Islamic State. "

According to some reports, among those held hostage by Islamic State there are more than 5,000 Yazidis, about 3,000 of them women and girls. Those who managed to flee report about women and girls being raped and abused, forced to convert to Islam and traded for cash or weapons for the further expansion of Islamic State.

In her passionate call to the Iraqi Parliament in August 2014 to act and save the Yazidis, Vian Dakhil said:
“My family is being butchered, just like all Iraqis are being killed....And today, the Yazidis are being slaughtered. Brothers, away from all the political disputes, we want humanitarian solidarity. I am speaking here in the name of humanity. Save us! Save us! ....For 48 hours, 30,000 families have been besieged in the Sinjar Mountains. Without water. Without food. They are dying. Seventy babies have died so far from thirst and suffocation. Fifty elderly people have died from the deteriorating conditions. Our women are being taken as slaves and sold in the slave markets. Mr Speaker, we demand that the Iraqi parliament intervenes
immediately to stop this massacre!”

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 to criticize the regime of terror. 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 out to the outside world.

By presenting Vian Dakhil with this year’s Anna Politkovskaya Award, RAW in WAR honors all women in Iraq, those detained in Mosul or elsewhere in the North, as well as the many unknown Iraqi women who are
resisting Islamic State by recording life under its rule and by collecting money and humanitarian aid for those in need. Today RAW in WAR calls on the international community to do all in its power to protect the people
of Iraq from the genocidal warfare that has been unleashed against the Yazidis and other minorities; to protect the women targeted by Islamic State; to end the regime of terror; and to bring stability and peace to the region.

On receiving the Anna Politkovskaya Award, Vian Dakhil will join a group of remarkable women human rights defenders who received the Anna Politkovskaya Award in the past, including 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).

On the Anna Politkovskaya Awards, Azar Nafisi, author, “Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books”, said: “It’s quite extraordinary, as well as natural, that we should celebrate the work of Anna through celebrating other courageous women who come from such different nations, backgrounds, and speak different languages but all share a common language in their desire for freedom. Not just for
themselves but for all victims of oppression.”

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