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Yazidi activist wins top human rights prize, calls for action

Nadia Murad, 23, said the international community must do more to stop 'genocide' after winning Council of Europe prize
Nadia Murad testifying before the US senate in June (AFP)

The Council of Europe on Monday awarded its prestigious Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize to Iraqi activist Nadia Murad, who was an Islamic State sex slave before becoming the face of a campaign to protect her Yazidi people.

The award, which honours outstanding civil society action in defence of human rights, comes with prize money of 60,000 euros ($US67,000).

The slight, softly spoken young woman was taken by IS from her home village of Kocho near Iraq's northern town of Sinjar in August 2014 and brought to the city of Mosul.

Among the first things IS forced her to do was to disavow her Yazidi faith, an ancient religion with more than half a million adherents concentrated near the Syrian border in northern Iraq.

As a captive of the extremist group, Murad, who celebrated her 23rd birthday also on Monday, said she was tortured and raped for three months until she managed to escape and flee to Germany.

Since then, she has become a human rights activist, bringing the plight of the Yazidi community - especially the forced sexual enslavement and human trafficking of women and children captured by IS - to the forefront of international attention.

The Vaclav Havel prize is instituted in memory of the former Czech president and playwright whose writings and opposition to totalitarianism turned him into a global icon.

Murad, in her acceptance speech in Strasbourg, called for the creation of an international court to judge crimes committed by Islamic State militants.

She recalled the plight of some 12,000 Yazidis who have fallen victim to IS persecution, branding it a "genocide".

"The free world is not reacting," said Murad, 18 of whose family members have either been killed or enslaved by IS.

The prize is awarded by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. 

The other two shortlisted candidates this year were Serbian journalist Gordana Igric, an active campaigner for human rights and media freedom, and the International Institute of Human Rights/Rene Cassin Foundation, which has worked since 1969 to promote human rights and peace.

Murad was last month named a Goodwill Ambassador for the UN's office on drugs and crime, working for the victims of human trafficking. 

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.