An Ezidi woman who escaped the Islamic State (ISIS) after being forced into sexual slavery and who won the European Parliament Sakharov Prize in 2016 called on Thursday (March 9) for the institution and its international community to do more for women’s rights by creating a court dedicated to the violations of those rights.
Lamiya Aji Bashar was among thousands of women and girls abducted, tortured and sexually abused by ISIS fighters after the militants rounded up Ezidis in the village of Kocho, near Sinjar in northwest Iraq, in 2014.
“In terms of criminal law, and the court, the dignity of women has to be respected and we have to see an end to slavery and the imprisonment of women. I call on the international community and the U.N. to create a special court that would be responsible for such matters. It should have broad competencies that would allow it to address violations of women’s rights. Its rulings should be binding of all members of the U.N. This court should take in hand these crimes, which should be punished and should be done so very severely,” she told the members of the EU Parliament.
Bashar added that defending women’s rights should not be the job of feminist militants alone and that universities, religious bodies and civil society as a whole should lend their support to women.
She escaped in March 2016 but was badly disfigured and blinded in one eye when a landmine went off as she fled. Two companions were killed.
ISIS insurgents overran Sinjar in August 2014, systematically killing, capturing and enslaving thousands of Ezidi inhabitants.
The Ezidis are a religious sect whose beliefs combine elements of several ancient Middle Eastern religions. ISIS considers them devil-worshipers.
Mass Ezidi graves have been found since Kurdish forces retook areas north of Sinjar in December 2014, and the town itself in November 2015, but ISIS had already transferred many Ezidis to other areas, including Tal Afar.
Reports from the area suggest thousands of people have fled Tal Afar as the Shia paramilitary groups — assisting a U.S.-backed operation to drive ISIS out of the city of Mosul to the east — advanced.
Most of those who have fled are from the town’s Turkmen Sunni Muslim majority, fearing sectarian revenge by the Shia fighters.
But Ezidis are also among them, and for those who managed to flee, squatting in a half-finished building in the northern city of Dohuk, has been a huge relief.
The Dawoodiya camp, which hosts over 700 displaced families originally from the Nineveh province, Tal-Afar and Sinjar, consists of 900 makeshift shelters, all of which were covered in thick blankets of snow.