Representatives of the Yazidis made a plea for support during a meeting with European Parliament President Martin Schulz on April 29, 2015. Vian Dakhil, right, the only Yazidi Kurd member of Iraq's Parliament, told him: "We seek help in releasing the 5,000 Yazidi women, elderly men and children who have been kidnapped by IS." Photo courtesy of Creative Commons/European Parliament/Pietro Naj-Oleari

Yazidi human rights leader won’t be able to pick up her award

(RNS) 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 travelers from Iraq.

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“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.”

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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.”

Austrian foreign minister Sebastian Kurz and Iraqi MP Vian Dakhil at a session of the UN Security Council in New York concerning the protection of religious minorities in the Middle East on March 27, 2015. Photo courtesy of Creative Commons/Dragan Tatic

Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz, left, and Iraqi MP Vian Dakhil, right, at a session of the U.N. Security Council in New York concerning the protection of religious minorities in the Middle East on March 27, 2015. Photo courtesy of Creative Commons/Dragan Tatic

 This image is available for web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

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.

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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 honored 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."

(Josephine McKenna is RNS' Rome-based correspondent)


  1. Not takin’ in Syrian refugees and closin’ our borders, isn’t “mean” or “heartless”. I lock the doors to my house every night. I don’t lock them because I hate the people outside my house. I lock them because I love the people inside my house. (from facebook)

  2. You make stupid analogies because you are too ignorant of facts and too unwilling to learn them. To equate people fleeing oppression and genocide with intruders and burglars is immoral indifferent nonsense.

  3. Not when their guidebook says you should be killed Spud

  4. You can’t even read your own guidebook properly or in context!

    So naturally your opinion on the guidebook of others isn’t worth squat. Btw Yazidis aren’t Muslim, you ignorant hateful [insert expletive here]!

    You want people turned away from our shores to be murdered. If you had an ounce of courage, you would be demanding that we just execute them now and that you should do the act. But you don’t.

    Your ignorance and murderous viciousness is already well established. I can’t think of you any worse at this point.

  5. lol….ignorance doesn’t make your opinion stronger, Spud

  6. Without ignorance, you would have nothing to say. 🙂

    You didn’t even know who the Yazidis are. Yet you want them murdered by ISIS. You are a terrible person.

  7. If I were wrong, you’d be agreeing with me Spud!

  8. That was silly.

    So please tell me why do you want the Yazidis murdered by ISIS?

  9. Nooooooo….ISIS is our friends. Let’s welcome them to the states! They’re just misunderstood. A little love and inclusion will help them. Maybe change our churches to teach the Quran. (sarcasm off)

  10. Look up the Yazidis online and get back to me. You are working off a script for another group.

    As I stated before

    So in addition to being an anti-Muslim bigot, you have shown yourself to be too stupid and uninformed to carry on this conversation.

    That being said, you are still a genocidal fool who wants to see people murdered by ISIS en masse because they are too panicky and ignorant to know a damn thing they are talking about.

  11. I said nothing about Yazadis. How are your glasses Spud?

  12. You didn’t realize the subject was Yazidis from the outset. So that makes all of your remarks incredibly stupid for being not related to the article.

    How about this, I will delete my posts if you delete yours. Obviously you were too thickheaded to realize what the article was about and my posts won’t make sense without the context of your ongoing mistake.

  13. Couldn’t come up with anything else to say, Spud?

  14. You are too ignorant to even pretend to carry on a conversation with on this subject. You went an entire day blubbering about something not relevant to the discussion despite being corrected several times.

    Calling you mentally challenged here would be a grave insult to the disabled.

  15. What I don’t understand is why you would come to the Religion News Service to make a comment like this. If you have no religious beliefs, if to you life is just about making some calculus about your own comfort and safety, — why not just stick to the regular newspapers and opine away? Lock your doors, load your guns, don’t go out anywhere because something might happen to you, and don’t think about those people whose lives are much harder than yours. That’s just their bad luck.

  16. I don’t believe people who if they follow their cult, want to hurt “me” – Jews or Christians, or unbelievers….. should be allowed into the country.

  17. You realize Trump’s ban also stopped the provision allowing women and children from places like Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador to apply for asylum. Christian women. This part of Trump’s order violates our own immigration laws and UN protocols.

    By the way, yesterday Congress voted to remove laws which restrict gun sales for those with mental health issues. If Trump signs it, your life just got a little more dangerous anyway.

  18. Just curious, what religion are you? Doesn’t seem you have much trust or compassion or concern for others. No willingness to sacrifice, risk, or be generous. Doesn’t seem you are familiar with the Bible’s counsel about how to treat immigrants — a big deal for tiny Israel, which was always surrounded by enemies.

  19. Centuries after they were told to welcome the sojourner, the strangers in their midst, and of course that wall was torn down three times by invading armies.

    “Unless the LORD builds a house, the work of the builders is wasted. Unless the LORD protects a city, guarding it with sentries will do no good.” Psalm 127:1

  20. And, they rebuilt the wall after Nebuchadnezzar.

  21. Completed just at the beginning of the First Jewish–Roman War. Some remains of that wall are located today near the Mandelbaum Gate gas station.

  22. good for your memory. Jerusalem had a wall to protect them from people God didn’t want there.

  23. They had three of them. Each of them torn down by invaders. “Unless the Lord protects a city, guarding it with sentries will do no good.” Psalm 127:1. Chariots and horses not much good either. Psalm 20:7.

  24. If you believe in God, you ought to think twice about your power to protect your own life.

  25. yawn…time for you to disagree with someone else….

  26. Yes, when respectful engagement is no longer possible, we should call it quits.

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