GENEVA, February 23, 2016 — Vian Dakhil, an Iraqi parliamentarian and one of only two Yazidi MPs (the only Yazidi woman MP), received a standing ovation today as she accepted the prestigious Geneva Summit International Women’s Rights Award. She addressed a chamber of human rights victims, dissidents and activists as well as hundreds of members of the public, at our 8th Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy.

Below are some highlights from her speech:

On the horrors visited on women by ISIS

“The Statistics of violence against women are terrifying […] This violence and persecution could be seen clearly in what happened in Iraq and Syria, the result of the brutal acts by the terrorists from ISIS, torturing women and killing them, torturing and killing their parents in front of their eyes and kidnapping their children, to the ugliest crime in modern history, kidnapping Yazidi women, raping them, and offering them for sale in the markets of Mosul and Riqa. Thus, in the absence of the free world and in blatant defiance of all human values, in front of the eyes and ears of the world, this terrorist organization has been selling women like brands.

On the universality of this issue as an issue of women’s rights

“Today, we must all unite to fight the oppression of women in the entire world. I’m here to not only speak on behalf of Yazidi or Iraqi women, whom I witness with my own eyes, being victims to violence and the thousands of widows and orphans, but to thousands more who are being beaten and insulted or bought and sold.”

“I am here to speak today for every oppressed woman in the world, in Zimbabwe, in Cambodia or France or America, there is no difference as long as they are exposed to violence and persecution”

On the significance of receiving this award

“Finally, I would like to thank you very much for your confidence in me.  By giving me this award, a great honor, a big responsibility, you have given me the opportunity to raise the voice of all the oppressed women in every part of the world. This is an award for every oppressed woman. The civilized world will not forget or ignore your suffering.”

Below is an English translation of the full text of her speech:

They say “women are the mirror of society, no they are the entire society”. They also say “behind every great man, is a woman,”. In the present era, this is how intellectuals express the importance of women in society, and there is no doubt that a woman is half of society, while giving birth to the other half. She is a mother, a sister, a wife and a daughter, and her work is not just limited to supporting a man. There are examples of great women, who lead nations and large countries, who lead revolutions and wars against colonialists and invaders, who develop science, arts and literature.

With the twentieth century began a start towards legalizing woman’s rights; in 1912, at the Hague, there was the adoption of the conventions on conflict of national laws relating to marriage, divorce and separation; in 1914, the international labor organization issued the Maternity Protection Convention; in 1935, the Convention on night work, and underground work for women was put in place. These agreements were intended to protect the working woman and take into account her role as a mother.

After the end of the second world war, the international interest in women’s issues got greater; the Charter of the United Nations in 1945 emphasized promoting respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms for everyone, without distinction due to race, sex, language or religion. In 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was a huge step towards the protection of woman’s rights and family care, where it considered the family as the natural and fundamental unit of society and as a result entitled to protection by the international community. In 1952 the UN Commission for the Status of Women, prepared the women’s political rights treaty, which was adopted by the UN General Assembly.

In 1967, the United Nations passed a special declaration on the elimination of discrimination against women, which called for the abolition of the prevailing customs that differentiate between men and women, and recognizes that women’s NGOs are the ones able to create such change.

In 1968 the Tehran Declaration of support for women was released.

In 1973, the United Nations Office for the women’s rights movement began the preparation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women,

In 1974, there was the Universal Declaration on the Protection of Women and Children to be issued in cases of emergency and armed conflict. In 1975, the international forum of women adapted the Mexico declaration for equality and participation of women in development and peace.

In 1976, Article 3 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights emphasized that States will ensure male and female equality.

In 1979 the adoption of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women was released and in December, 1981 it came into effect

In 1994, the Cairo International Conference on Population and Development was put in place. Among the aims, it sought to achieve equality between men and women.

In 1995, the release of the Beijing Declaration which stated that women’s rights are human rights and focused on the concept of gender and called for the need to change the stereotypes of women in society and the media.

In 2000, the UN issued a document (Beijing +5), where it called for the promotion of gender campaigns and training on equality between women and men.

In 2005 the conference (Beijing + 10), passed in its document the principle of equality in gender and focused on the documentation of the previous Beijing items.

Security Council resolution 1325 was also released on the advancement of women and their protection.

Despite these conventions and treaties throughout history, there is still the persecution of women and people in general; the Statistics of violence against women are terrifying.

It varies between countries. This violence and persecution could be seen clearly in what happened in Iraq and Syria, the result of the brutal acts by the terrorists from ISIS, torturing women and killing them, torturing and killing their parents in front of their eyes and kidnapping their children, to the ugliest crime in modern history, kidnapping Yazidi women, raping them, and offering them for sale in the markets of Mosul and Riqa.

Thus, in the absence of the free world and in blatant defiance of all human values, in front of the eyes and ears of the world, this terrorist organization has been selling women like brands. Unfortunately, despite all our efforts to deliver their voice to international bodies, there are more than 3,600 girls and Yazidi women who are still kidnapped by ISIS, living tortured lives and there are hundreds or even thousands of women from different religions, living under very critical conditions in the camps, sometimes without even a roof

What happened to us is not less horrible than what happened to the women in Burma and the victims of Boko Haram in Nairobi and in every corner of the world where women are subjected to the worst kind of oppression and persecution.

Today, we must all unite to fight the oppression of women in the entire world. I’m here to not only speak on behalf of Yazidi or Iraqi women, whom I witness with my own eyes, being victims to violence and the thousands of widows and orphans, but to thousands more who are being beaten and insulted or bought and sold

I am here to speak today for every oppressed woman in the world, in Zimbabwe, in Cambodia or France or America, there is no difference as long as they are exposed to violence and persecution. We have to start at home and go further, to areas of armed conflicts. And not limit ourselves to the enactment of laws and treaties

We need to help these women and get them out of their difficulty. Prevent trafficking, by supporting them and giving them a normal life

Finally, I would like to thank you very much for your confidence in me.  By giving me this award, a great honor, a big responsibility, you have given me the opportunity to raise the voice of all the oppressed women in every part of the world. This is an award for every oppressed woman: ‘The civilized world will not forget or ignore your suffering.’

Vian Dakhil also addressed diplomats, journalists and human rights defenders at Monday’s opening session of the Geneva Summit, held at the UN:

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