The European Parliament will award its 2016 Sakharov Prize to two Yazidi women who were among thousands of sex slaves kidnapped, imprisoned and tortured by Islamic State (ISIS) in Iraq and Syria.
The Prize, which is given by the European Parliament each year to individuals or organisations who have fought for freedom of expression, will be presented this year to Nadia Murad and Lamiya Aji Bashar, two survivors of the genocidal Islamist regime that has ruled large swathes of Iraq and Syria for the past two years, particularly targeting Christians, Yazidis and other religious minorities.
The decision by the leaders of the European Parliament’s political groups to award this year’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought to victims of ISIS’s many crimes against humanity, will help to draw world attention to the important issue of religious freedom in the Islamic world. Christians are by far the most persecuted religious group world wide, as recent research by Open Doors confirms once again.
The Sakharov award ceremony will be held in Strasbourg on 14 December when the two Yazidi girls will address a plenary session of the European Parliament. This is the second year running that the European Parliament has given its human rights prize to victims of Islamist oppression. Last year’s laureate was Saudi Arabian blogger Raif Badawi who has been brutally beaten by the Saudi authorities and imprisoned for ten years for allegedly “insulting Islam”.
While there is a wide gulf between the self-proclaimed Caliphate of the Islamic State and the theocratic Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, there are many similarities, most notably a violent enforcement of Islam as the only acceptable religion and a complete ban on all other religions. It is welcome that the European Parliament is using the Sakharov Prize to highlight the importance of religious freedom. But much more must be done by the EU to condemn the religious persecution, oppression and discrimination taking place on a daily basis, particularly aimed at Christians, and often in countries in our own ‘neighbourhood’ just across the Mediterranean Sea.