Vian Dakhil, right, the only Yazidi Kurd member of Iraq's Parliament, will not likely be able to accept her Lantos Human Rights Prize in Washington D.C. in person due to U.S. President Donald Trump's recently imposed travel ban. Creative Commons/European Parliament/Pietro Naj-Oleari

Yazidi human rights leader won’t be able to pick up award due to Trump's travel ban

By  Josephine McKenna, Religion News Service
  • February 1, 2017

Vian Dakhil captured the world’s attention two years ago when she made an impassioned plea to save the Yazidi religious minority from annihilation by the Islamic State group in northern Iraq.

As the only female Yazidi in the Iraqi Parliament, Dakhil fought tirelessly for international assistance to stop the violence, including sexual slavery, targeting her beleaguered people.

Now she has been awarded the Lantos Human Rights Prize in Washington, D.C. But she is unlikely to make the ceremony on Feb. 8, since President Donald Trump banned all travellers from Iraq.

“I’m not against any president who is willing to protect his country and his people. He has the right to restrict the entrance of terrorists to U.S.,” Dakhil said.

“I just feel sad that we who have suffered from this terrorism inside Iraq, have now been treated the same as them. With this ban Mr. Trump has put the torturer and the victim on the same level.”

Dakhil has worked tirelessly on behalf of up to 700,000 Yazidis threatened by the Islamic State group’s ethnic-cleansing campaign, and personal death threats have not deterred her.

“The Yazidis were the most vulnerable and faced the worst sort of violence when ISIS attacked our villages in Sinjar,” she said. “They kidnapped women and raped them and killed the men. We still have more than 1,000 missing families under ISIS control and we are unsure about their fate.”

Katrina Lantos Swett, president of the Lantos Foundation, urged Trump to overturn the immigration order, saying it will have a “devastating effect” on human rights activists who work with the U.S. to promote religious freedom.

“When we have to question whether a hero like Dakhil, who has risked her life to fight the genocidal terrorists of ISIS, will be allowed into our country to receive a human rights prize in the shadow of the Capitol dome, we should all be deeply concerned,” said Lantos Swett.

“This ban undermines America’s security and our values by turning our backs on the friends and allies we desperately need by our side to defeat the butchers of ISIS,” she added.

The Lantos Foundation called on the Trump administration “to immediately rescind this ill-advised and counter-productive order.” The foundation is named for Tom Lantos, a Holocaust survivor and former California congressman.

Dakhil’s impassioned plea inspired former President Barack Obama to authorize airstrikes and humanitarian efforts to rescue thousands of Yazidis trapped in the assault by the Islamic State group back in 2014.

She has personally conducted rescue missions on behalf of thousands of women and girls who remain enslaved by the terrorist organization in Iraq and Syria.

She said she was honoured to receive the recognition from the Lantos Foundation, whose previous winners include former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the Dalai Lama and former Israeli President Shimon Peres.

“This award would bring lots of attention to our plight,” she said, “which is almost forgotten.”

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