The Lantos Foundation calls on the United States and the greater international community to stand with the brave Kurdish people of Afrin as they suffer under a brutal and unwarranted attack from President Erdogan of Turkey. The Kurds are brave allies who stood shoulder to shoulder with us in the fight against ISIS, and their major crime in Erdogan’s eyes is simply their existence as a progressive society that lies too close to Turkey’s border for his liking. Civilized nations cannot stand idly by as Turkey and Russia conspire to destroy the homes and lives of Syrian Kurds who want nothing more than to live freely and peacefully. These unprovoked attacks are clear violations of human rights, democratic values, and international norms. We firmly stand in solidarity with our Kurdish allies.
January 30, 2017
Contact: Katrina Lantos Swett
President, Lantos Foundation
Phone: (603) 226-3636
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Immigration Ban Hits Leading ISIS Opponent and Parliamentarian
Vian Dakhil of Iraq scheduled to receive the Lantos Human Rights Prize in Washington, DC Next Week
Vian Dakhil mobilized the world against the ISIS-led assault on her people. The new Executive Order on immigration may prevent Dakhil from receiving the Lantos Human Rights Prize in person at the United States Capitol on February 8, 2017. This current member of the Iraqi Parliament and human rights champion has dedicated her life to fighting ISIS and saving her beleaguered people. She could be barred from entering the U.S. due to the Trump Administration’s decision to block the entry of all citizens from Iraq and six other predominantly Muslim countries.
Today, Lantos Foundation President, Katrina Lantos Swett, called on President Trump to reverse the order, which will have a devastating effect on the ability of human rights defenders and advocates for religious freedom to work with partners in the United States:
“My father, the late Tom Lantos, came to this country as a penniless immigrant and went on to become the only Holocaust survivor ever to serve in Congress. He understood better than most that it was of the utmost importance to uphold the United States’ proud tradition of protecting vulnerable victims of political, religious and ethnic persecution. He believed, and often said, “The veneer of civilization is paper thin; we are its guardians and we can never rest”. This moment demands that we step up as its guardians.
“When we deny entry to all citizens of Muslim majority countries, we disrespect our fundamental American values – indeed, the values that truly make America great. When we have to question whether a hero like Vian Dakhil, who has risked her life to fight the genocidal terrorists of ISIS, will be allowed into our country to receive a human rights prize in the shadow of the Capitol dome, we should all be deeply concerned. This ban undermines America’s security and our values by turning our backs on the friends and allies we desperately need by our side to defeat the butchers of ISIS. We are eroding our capacity to win this fight and dishonoring our nation’s legacy as the world’s foremost defender of human rights and justice.
The Lantos Foundation calls upon the Trump Administration to immediately rescind this ill-advised and counter-productive order. We must not close our borders to those who look to the United States as the shining city on the hill or to those, like Vian Dakhil, who are carrying the light in their own corner of the world.”
Ms. Dakhil, the only woman of Yazidi heritage serving in the Iraqi Parliament, became a top target on ISIS’ “Most Wanted” list for her work to expose ISIS ’genocidal campaign against the Yazidi community in Iraq. She has not only used her position in Parliament to inform the world of the atrocities being committed, but she has personally conducted ongoing rescue missions on behalf of thousands of women and girls who remain enslaved by the radical terror group in Iraq and Syria. In recognition of these incredible acts of physical bravery and moral courage, the Lantos Foundation selected Ms. Dakhil to receive the 2016 Lantos Human Rights Prize.
The Lantos Foundation established the Lantos Human Rights Prize in 2009 to honor and bring attention to heroes of the human rights movement. This annual award is presented to a recipient that best exemplifies the mission of the Lantos Foundation, namely to be a vital voice standing up for the values of decency, dignity, freedom, and justice in every corner of the world. The prize also serves to honor the memory and legacy of the late Congressman Tom Lantos, the only Holocaust survivor ever elected to the U.S. Congress and a leading advocate for human rights during his nearly three decades as a U.S. Representative. Previous Lantos Prize winners include His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Professor Elie Wiesel, Paul Rusesabagina, Chen Guangcheng, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Shimon Peres, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Rebiya Kadeer, and Irshad Manji.
"The protection of freedom of religion, conscience, and belief should be a significant priority of our nation. To permit the rampant abuse of this essential human right not only violates the core of our humanity, it harms the order and well-being of societies, including our own.
In short, protecting religious liberty is not just the right thing to do. It is almost always the smart thing to do."
The Lantos Foundation for Human Rights & Justice commends Secretary of State John Kerry’s declaration that the Islamic State’s actions against Yezidi, Christian, and Shiite communities constitutes genocide. Coming just days after Congress passed a unanimous joint resolution condemning the Islamic State’s actions as genocide, it is encouraging to see our leaders joining together in a bi-partisan and ecumenical way to boldly call evil by its true name, and in so doing they are honoring basic human rights and justice.
As Secretary Kerry stated in his remarks today: “Naming these crimes is important. But what is essential is to stop them.” We hope that the message sent this week by the United States Congress and by the United States Department of State will not only raise awareness of the horrific crimes being committed in the Middle East today, but will lead to strong action to stop these atrocities.
Too often the world has failed to act when helpless minorities have faced the clear threat of genocide. We hope that this time will be different. We call on the world community to act to ensure that the Yazidi, Christian, and Shiite communities in Syria and Iraq are not only saved, but also restored in the wake of the devastating trauma that they have endured. Only by working together can we overcome the evil that ISIS represents.
The brutal murder of James Foley has once again reminded the world of the extraordinary stakes in the ongoing struggle between the forces of human rights and democracy and those of barbarism, repression, and savagery. The Jihadists of ISIS and their ilk are truly enemies of all mankind. From their threatened genocide against the Yazidi community to their "convert or die” ultimatum against the ancient Christian communities of Syria and Iraq, they have demonstrated conclusively that their vicious cruelty knows no bounds, nor will it respect any national boundaries. It is incumbent upon responsible leaders to recognize that unless this evil force is confronted and defeated, it will find its way to our own shores and our own doorsteps.
The Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice calls upon the leaders of the civilized world to act decisively and in concert to defend the fundamental human rights of the imperiled people in the path of this murderous horde. James Foley courageously sacrificed his life to bring the story of this suffering region to the world’s attention and his tragic death must strengthen the world’s resolve to defeat this grave threat to humanity.
Once again, the words of Congressman Lantos sound prophetically in our ears; “The veneer of civilization is paper thin. We are its guardians and we can never rest”.