Anne’s Woman of the Year acceptance speech

Anne’s Woman of the Year acceptance speech

It is such an honour for me to receive this award and to be here with all of you today. I would like to thank Baroness Helena Kennedy for nominating me and my Yezidi team, without whom I could not do this work.

I started our charity Yezidi Emergency Support to help those in desperate need, and we have been able to provide medical care, education, material aid and financial help for many. But much greater help is needed.

“The Yezidis have been subjected to as many as 74 genocides, simply because they have their own religion.”

Yezidis are a much-threatened ethnic minority from Sinjar, Iraq. Peaceful, gentle, loving people who have been subjected to as many as 74 genocides, simply because they have their own religion.

Before 2014, the Yezidis had a thriving community living happily alongside their neighbours, but Isis attacked them suddenly, killing thousands. And those who swore to protect them abandoned them.

Shockingly there are still more than 3,000 Yezidis who remain in captivity since their genocide 4 years ago, when nearly 7,000 were captured, sold into slavery, tortured, raped, or murdered.

As a result, the Yezidis feel betrayed by all in Iraq. They are subjected to continuous, systemic persecution and oppression from all sides. They are petrified of the ideology of those around them and are losing hope of a future.

They have lost absolutely everything. Their entire social structure destroyed, around 350,000 of them trapped in tented camps in Kurdistan, isolated and slowly dying. A further 50,000 live on Sinjar mountain exposed to extreme weather conditions and almost without aid.

To survive on Sinjar they need funding to defuse IEDs and to rebuild their homes. They should be allowed self- rule and international protection. But they have little influence or money, and those with greater power seek to take their lands. Yezidis are sick of broken promises from the west. And after all, the Iraq war – responsible for the unleashing of ISIS – was of our making, not theirs.

Only Germany, Canada and Australia have provided migration programmes for Yezidis. The UK refuses them asylum despite their desperate need and despite recognising their genocide. I am deeply ashamed of my country’s stance on this. There are only 10 Yezidis in the UK seeking asylum yet the home office intends to deport them back to a life of hell in a tent where their lives are threatened. A tent is not their home. They have no home.

Every Yezidi is traumatised, there are less than a million now left in the world and they deserve our help. They have never harmed anyone. I implore the UK government to create a programme to allow Yezidis to seek asylum.

“There are only 10 Yezidis in the UK seeking asylum yet the home office intends to deport them back to a life of hell in a tent.”

How can people help? By campaigning to bring their situation to the attention of those in power. To allow those who wish it to seek asylum. And by donating to Yezidi charities such as ours, Yezidi Emergency Support.

In the words of Nobel Peace Prize winner Nadia Murad, ‘You and your families are not the only ones who deserve to live, we also deserve to live!’

Thank you.

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