Iraq Yazidi lawmaker could be barred from US award ceremony

AFP , Tuesday 31 Jan 2017

An Iraqi lawmaker who has campaigned prominently for fellow Yazidi women enslaved by the Islamic State group said Tuesday that new US travel restrictions may prevent her from accepting a human rights award.

Vian Dakhil had been due to travel to Washington to receive the Lantos Human Rights Prize next week for her work highlighting the plight of Yazidi women turned into sex slaves by the jihadists after their homes were overrun in 2014.

But Friday's executive order by President Donald Trump barring nationals of Iraq and six other Muslim countries from entry to the United States has thrown those plans into question.

"It is not clear yet if I will travel or not," Dakhil told AFP. Trump said that the entry ban, which will apply for at least 90 days, will help make America safe from "radical Islamic terrorists".

But Dakhil is a Yazidi, a member of a non-Muslim minority that has been subjected to a campaign of killings, kidnappings, enslavement and rape by the Sunni Muslim extremists of IS. "The decision came as a surprise," Dakhil said.

She said the Iraqi embassy and the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice, which is awarding the prize, were working to secure an exemption to the travel ban. The fact that she is a member of the Iraqi parliament may help her case.

The Lantos Foundation was critical of the blanket nature of the closed door policy adopted by Trump.

"Dakhil's case is a startling example of how the executive order signed by President Trump is having unintended consequences and ensnaring not only those who have no links to terrorism but also those who have risked their lives to fight terrorism in cooperation with the United States," it said.

The foundation said the award was acknowledgement of Dakhil's "courageous defence of the Yazidi people as they faced mass genocide two years ago at the hands of the Islamic State and for her ongoing rescue mission on behalf of enslaved Yazidi women."

The foundation is named after the late US Congressman Tom Lantos, a Holocaust survivor who was a lifelong champion of human rights.

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