Two Yazidi women who escaped sexual enslavement by the Daesh terrorist group in Iraq were awarded Europe’s Sakharov human rights prize on Thursday.
Nadia Murad and Lamiya Aji Bashar have campaigned for human rights since their escape.
Daesh abducted them along with other women when it overran Kocho village in Iraq’s northwestern district of Sinjar in August 2014.
The Yazidis belong to a secretive religious sect whose beliefs combine elements of several ancient Middle Eastern beliefs. Daesh consider Yazidis to be heretics.
Murad, now aged 23, was held in Mosul but escaped her captors in November 2014. She reached a refugee camp and eventually made her way to Germany.
She has since become active as an advocate for the Yazidis, as well as a campaigner for refugees and women's rights. She has also campaigned against human trafficking. Murad has called for the massacre of Yazidis to be recognised as a genocide.
She previously won the Václav Havel human rights prize awarded by the Council of Europe.
Bashar, 18, works as an advocate for the Yazidis. She managed to escape from Daesh in March. She was disfigured and blinded in one eye by a landmine explosion as she fled. Two of her companions died in the incident.
Sinjar was liberated from Daesh in November 2014 in a two-day offensive backed by US-led coalition air strikes. Mass graves of Yazidis have been uncovered in the area north of Sinjar mountain.
UN investigators said in a report in June that Daesh is committing genocide against the Yazidis in Syria and Iraq to destroy the religious community of 400,000 people.
Such a designation would mark the first recognised genocide carried out by non-state actors, rather than a state or paramilitaries acting on its behalf.
The Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, named after the late Russian dissident and scientist Andrei Sakharov, is awarded annually by the European Parliament. It was set up in 1988.
The prize honours individuals and organisations defending human rights and basic freedoms.
Last year, Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, who is currently serving a ten-year prison sentence for “insulting Islam,” won the prize.