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Home / Press Release / Iraqi Activists, Film Eye in the Sky to Receive Awards During Human Rights First Dinner Tonight
October 19, 2016

Iraqi Activists, Film Eye in the Sky to Receive Awards During Human Rights First Dinner Tonight

New York City – Tonight at the 2016 Human Rights First Award Dinner at Chelsea Piers in New York City, the organization will honor Iraqi human rights activists Khaleel Aldakhi and Ameena Saeed Hasan with its 2016 Human Rights First Award. The married couple are being recognized for their courage, determination, and innovation as they risk their lives to rescue Yazidi women and girls who have been abducted and enslaved by ISIS. Human Rights First will also present its 2016 Sidney Lumet Award for Integrity in Entertainment to the film Eye in the Sky for its powerful portrayal of the ethical dilemmas posed by drone warfare, including how political and military leaders assess “collateral damage”—a term for which the film provides much-needed humanity. Helen Mirren and John D. Hutson RADM JAGC USN (ret) will present the award to director Gavin Hood. 

“Khaleel and Ameena are the last remaining hope for many Yazidi women and girls enslaved by ISIS," said Human Rights First President and CEO Elisa Massimino. “When the Islamic State's reign of terror and extreme violence hit close to home, the Hasans thought not of their own safety, but of how they could rescue others. Their courage and determination are remarkable and awe-inspiring.”

Two years ago, the terrorist group ISIS launched a genocidal campaign against the Yazidi people—a Kurdish speaking religious minority—and other groups in northern Iraq. On August 3, 2014 ISIS overtook northern Iraq’s Sinjar district, where nearly three hundred thousand people lived, the majority of whom were Yazidi. As part of its brutal onslaught, ISIS abducted Yazidi women and girls subjecting them to rape and sexual slavery. This tragedy continues today.

Khaleel Aldakhi and Ameena Saeed Hasan—who live near the Iraq-Syria border—saw the horror and knew they had to help, so they set up a rescue network. They receive furtive calls from enslaved women and make the perilous journey to rescue them. They help survivors recover from trauma and press for international help for the Yazidi people. Khaleel, a lawyer, and Ameena, a former member of parliament, risk their lives to save these women and girls—a project they have made their life’s work. The Human Rights First Award recognizes this work and all they have accomplished in the fight to protect Yazidi women.  

Each year, the Sidney Lumet Award honors a work of popular culture that advances understanding of pressing human rights issues. Through its focus on the issue of targeted killing, Eye in the Sky is motivating global audiences to demand accountability on drone warfare. In the best traditions of Sidney Lumet, the film has provoked thoughtful discussion about one of the most challenging human rights issues of our time.  

Tonight's program will also recognize this year's winners of the Marvin Frankel Award for extraordinary commitment to providing pro bono legal representation to individuals who have fled persecution and seek asylum in the United States. Human Right First will honor Blank Rome LLP in Washington, D.C., Latham & Watkins LLP in Houston, and Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP in New York City for their dedication to human rights and commitment to pro bono service.  

Media and photographers interested in covering the event must be credentialed. To RSVP or for more information about the 2016 Human Rights First Award Dinner, please contact Christopher Plummer at PlummerC@humanrightsfirst.org.