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Home / Press Release / Iraqi Couple Saving Yazidi Girls from ISIS to Receive Human Rights First Award
October 07, 2016

Iraqi Couple Saving Yazidi Girls from ISIS to Receive Human Rights First Award

New York City – Human Rights First will honor Iraqi human rights activists Khaleel Aldakhi and Ameena Saeed Hasan with its 2016 Human Rights First Award. The husband and wife activists are being recognized for their courageous work rescuing Yazidi women and girls enslaved by ISIS. The organization will present the Human Rights First Award to Aldakhi and Hasan at its annual gala on October 19th at Chelsea Piers in New York City.

“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 where 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.  

For more than 30 years, Human Rights First has presented its annual Human Rights First Award to courageous activists on the frontlines of the struggle for freedom. Previous recipients include: European activists Jane Braden-Golay, Siavosh Derakhti, and Niddal El-Jabri; Ryan Boyette of the United States/South Sudan; Dennis Mukwege of the Democratic Republic of Congo; Chen Guangcheng of China; Basem Fathy of Egypt; Shehrbano Tasser of Pakistan; Julius Kaggwa of Uganda; Viktória Mohácsi of Hungary; Damos De Blanco (Ladies in White) of Cuba; Ludmilla Alexeeva of Russia; Helen Mack of Guatemala; Merenghiz Kar of Iran; Saad Eddin Ibrahim of Egypt; Albie Sachs of South Africa; and Hina Jalani of Pakistan.

Khaleel Aldakhi and Ameena Saeed Hasan are available for interview. For more information contact Christopher Plummer at [email protected] or 202-370-3310.