Lantos Prize

Immigration Ban Hits Leading ISIS Opponent and Parliamentarian

January 30, 2017
Contact: Katrina Lantos Swett
President, Lantos Foundation
Phone: (603) 226-3636


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 Americas 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 nations legacy as the worlds 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.   

ISIS’ “Most Wanted” Woman Vian Dakhil to be Named 2016 Lantos Prize Laureate

The Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice is proud to announce that our highest honor, the Lantos Human Rights Prize, will be awarded to Iraqi parliamentarian and ISIS’ “most wanted” woman, Vian Dakhil, at an award ceremony in Washington, D.C. on February 8, 2017 at the U.S. Capitol. 

Dakhil will be given the 2016 award for her courageous defense of the Yazidi people as they faced mass genocide two years ago at the hands of the Islamic State and for her ongoing rescue mission on behalf of enslaved Yazidi women. Former recipients of the Lantos Prize include, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Professor Elie Wiesel, and Israeli President Shimon Peres.

Lantos Foundation President Katrina Lantos Swett said in a statement regarding the selection of Dakhil, “Two years ago, MP Vian Dakhil, through an eloquent speech before the Iraqi parliament, single-handedly moved the governments of Iraq and the United States to intervene on behalf of the Yazidi people. As a result of her impassioned plea, thousands of lives were saved. However, her efforts did not stop there. She has done more than almost anyone else to try to free women and children who have been enslaved and brutalized by ISIS. In addition to using her membership in parliament to advocate on behalf of the Yazidi people, Dakhil has also led dangerous rescue missions – one of which almost took her life. Vian Dakhil is truly a hero and savior, and we are tremendously excited to present her with this award.”

The Lantos Foundation established the Lantos Human Rights Prize in 2009 to honor and bring attention to heroes of the human rights movement. It is awarded annually to an individual or organization that best exemplifies the Foundation’s mission, 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.

The Lantos Foundation Remembers Shimon Peres

It is with profound grief that the Lantos Foundation marks the passing of Shimon Peres, one of the giants of our time. The last of Israel's Founding Fathers, he was a statesman of the world and his death is a deep loss to all people of goodwill. He was a man of great intellect and principle whose devotion to his nation was equaled by his determination to seek peace.

He had a close and abiding friendship with Congressman Lantos, who held dear the memory of celebrating his 80th birthday with President Peres in Israel. It has been one of the Lantos Foundation’s great honors to have awarded our highest recognition, the Lantos Prize, to President Peres in 2014.

We will forever be grateful for his eternally optimistic, hopeful, and loving vision of a world united in freedom, respect, and peace. While many, including the Lantos Foundation, will strive to carry forward his noble legacy, the world will be hard-pressed to find his equal. 

The Lantos Foundation Remembers Professor Elie Wiesel

Katrina Lantos Swett Statement: "Professor Wiesel was a dear friend to the Lantos family and the Lantos Foundation and his passing is an inestimable loss to us all. He was indeed the moral conscience of the world and the Lantos Foundation was honored to have presented him with the Lantos Prize in 2010. 

Elie had remarked once that he was one of those who did not sleep well and that it was his duty to make sure the world also did not sleep too well but rather was kept in remembrance of the evil that could overtake us if we permitted our humanity and our moral conscience to slumber. In this conviction he was truly a "brother" to my late father Congressman Tom Lantos, another Hungarian Holocaust survivor and his close friend. In a very similar vein my father had said " The veneer of civilization is paper thin, we are its guardians and we can never rest".

Through his extraordinary writing, speaking and advocacy, Elie Wiesel reached deep into the heart of an often callous and casual world with a quiet insistence that we remember and that we act. Mingled with our sorrow at his passing is a profound gratitude for the life of this great man. Our world will not be the same without him - we promise him that we will "never rest"."


NH residents remember holocaust survivor, author and activist Elie Wiesel's legacy By: Jennifer

"Elie Wiesel was one of those beacons of light to us that helps us to remember that our job is important and we need to keep ever-vigilant in doing the things that we do.” - Denise Perron, Lantos Foundation Executive Director

Read full article on NH1news

Rebiya Kadeer - 2015 Lantos Human Rights Prize Remarks

It is a very great privilege to speak to you today. I want to thank The Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice for assembling such distinguished guests to celebrate Human Rights Day and to demonstrate our collective strength.

Eleanor Roosevelt once said: “Many people will walk in and out of your life, but only true friends will leave footprints in your heart.” So it is with great humility that I stand before you on this occasion honored with the 2015 Lantos Human Rights Prize. Tom Lantos was my true friend. His passing was not only a sad day for rights defenders across the world, but also a great personal loss. Tom Lantos embodied integrity, truth and above all justice. His support for my release from a Chinese jail and for the Uyghur cause of human rights and democracy kept hope alive in dark days.

And now, his legacy continues through the critical work of his family and The Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice. The leadership in championing the rights of religious minorities displayed by Katrina Lantos Swett at the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom and the lifelong commitment of Tom’s widow, Mrs. Annette Lantos, in resisting tyranny keep a message of compassion and tolerance alive.

I am also honored to share the prize with Irshad Manji, and Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Their brave work is an inspiration to the marginalized people of the world and demonstrates the endurance of nonviolent resolutions to conflict. That we share this award is testament to the integral part Muslim women have in leadership of their communities. Our common faith shows that Islam has a role to play in bringing peace and progress in a globalized world.

Since the terror attacks on the United States in 2001, the Chinese government has attempted to cast Uyghurs as religious extremists in order to justify a fierce crackdown in East Turkestan. After the recent tragic events in Paris, China once again has seized a political opportunity to seek international approval of its repressive policies targeting Uyghurs.

Let me state this categorically, the Uyghurs are a people of peace and development. They reject the ideologies of extremists that threaten the welfare of humanity. The Uyghur issue is not a Uyghur problem. It is a Chinese government problem. A situation generated by systematic denial to Uyghurs of fundamental human rights and freedoms. Concerned people should not yield to Chinese narratives that deflect scrutiny of its record in East Turkestan.

It is not surprising Chinese officials work hard to conceal events in East Turkestan as the Uyghur people face gross human rights violations on a daily basis. A number of agencies have detailed a broad range of rights concerns regarding Uyghurs, including: enforced disappearances; jailing of political dissidents, journalists and webmasters; repression of independent religious leaders; forced abortions; destruction of cultural heritage; restrictions of movement and formidable obstacles in obtaining a passport; tight controls on freedom of expression, particularly on the internet; marginalization of the Uyghur language in education and society; pressures exerted on foreign governments to refoul refugees; targeted surveillance; and suppression of non-state sanctioned religious association and assembly.

Since Xi Jinping became China’s president, human rights violations of the Uyghur people have intensified. Excessive force and extrajudicial killings are now a common feature of the Chinese state’s security approach to the region. The disproportionate use of force during house-to-house searches, at security checkpoints and during peaceful demonstrations has led to credible allegations of state initiated violence. China’s lack of transparency surrounding incidents of state violence in East Turkestan and conflation between peaceful dissent and violence should cause alarm among independent observers.

Another concerning dimension to the Uyghur issue is how the Chinese government prevents Uyghurs from questioning repressive policies. The Chinese state’s persecution of Uyghur academic Ilham Tohti and his family demonstrate how even working within the system is a threat.

Using legitimate and peaceful means to initiate a meaningful dialogue with the state on the deplorable conditions facing the Uyghurs, Ilham Tohti was targeted by the Chinese authorities and sentenced to life in prison in September 2014 in a legal process that was highly politicized.

Seven of Ilham Tohti’s students who were given prison sentences of up to eight years in December 2014. Perhat Halmurat, Shohret Nijat, Mutellip Imin, Abduqeyyum Ablimit, Atikem Rozi, Akbar Imin and Luo Yuwei worked as volunteers on Professor Tohti’s website, Uighurbiz.

The trial of Ilham Tohti and his students, as well as the targeting of other Uyghur activists, send a strong message that the government will not tolerate any form of Uyghur opposition and displays the extent of Uyghur exclusion from meaningful participation in determining regional policies. That Chinese official media labeled Ilham Tohti as the “brains” behind terrorists should confirm deep skepticism of Chinese government terror claims.

In a world growing more tolerant of anti-Islamic rhetoric, it is the responsibility of enlightened governments to speak out for Muslims facing human rights violations in the name of anti-terror. This could take on no better form than a firm rejection of Chinese accusations of widespread radicalization in East Turkestan and a public stance in favor of the Uyghur peoples’ fundamental rights.

Uyghurs have always extended friendship to peoples beyond East Turkestan. Given its central role in the ancient Silk Road, East Turkestan could be considered the blueprint for contemporary globalization through its tolerance of other faiths and ideas. Now is the time for the world’s democracies to support Uyghurs in realizing their aspirations of freedom and human rights. Uyghurs share the common vision of a world as a place of development, respect and justice for all human beings.

As a former political prisoner, I can testify to the power of openly raising human rights issues with the Chinese authorities. Whenever officials from democratic countries or advocates from rights groups brought my case up to the Chinese government, not only did the conditions of my incarceration improve, but also my hope increased that the pressure would result in my release, as it eventually did in 2005.

Publicly mentioning the repression and undemocratic practices of the Chinese government in trips to China educates and alerts the general public to the falsehood that all is well in China. Publicly raising the Uyghur issue would simultaneously fill millions of Uyghurs with hope, as well as shine a light for those among the world’s public who do not yet know of the egregious human rights abuses facing the Uyghur people. It is often stated that knowledge is power and the more the public knows about the Uyghur issue the more pressure can be brought to bear on the Chinese government to reform its repressive policies.

I want to express my deep admiration to The Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice for its recognition of the dire conditions faced by Uyghurs. In a time when China’s economic prowess is increasingly silencing criticism of the Chinese government, even in democracies, this strong statement of support counts more than ever. The honor of accepting the 2015 Lantos Human Rights Prize is a further expression of solidarity with the Uyghur people and on behalf of all Uyghurs I extend our friendship in return.

Thank you.

Washington Times: Well-behaved women seldom make history, Three outspoken Muslims are honored for their courage

By Katrina Lantos-Swett - - Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Heretic. Rabble-rouser. Criminal. These words have been used and abused to describe many remarkable figures throughout history. Voltaire, when he used his unparalleled pen to demand that the clerical hierarchy of his day truly evaluate itself. Martin Luther, when he set out to reform a faith that he had dedicated his life to. And Martin Luther King Jr., when he issued a prophetic call to his country to fully respect the rights of all of its citizens.

Next month, the Lantos Foundation will proudly honor three courageous women of Muslim heritage who have chosen to make history, joining the ranks of those whom time has vindicated as righteous and brave agents of change. Rebiya Kadeer, Irshad Manji and Ayaan Hirsi Ali are all cut from the same cloth as these towering figures of an earlier time. They, too, have been vilified, but we strongly believe these women will go down in history as bold leaders, audacious reformers and righteous rebels. As has been widely observed, well-behaved women seldom make history.

Read more

Remarks by Mrs. Annette Lantos; Lantos Prize Ceremony 2014

"Many years ago Tom and I took our two young daughters on a trip to Prague where, in the old Jewish Quarter, we learned of the Nazi plans to establish a “Museum of an Extinct Race.” I remember feeling the cold sense of dread and horror that one experiences in the face of evil. I clutched my two little girls’ hands a bit tighter that day, but not in fear, rather in determination!

Like you, President Peres, we were determined to answer this evil with good. You have answered it in countless ways, most importantly as one of the fathers of the unprecedented miracle that is modern day Israel and by your heroic defense of her highest aspirations and deepest values.

Through our work on behalf of human rights Tom and I gave our answer, but as you know Tom’s proudest rebuke to those who sought to wipe us off the face of the earth was his family. Our two wonderful daughters shared a vision. They were determined to rebuild the family that had been taken from us and to rekindle a light for the millions of murdered children. And they have kindled many beautiful lights who are now the light of my life. Surrounding me are my children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. We reaffirm today and forever that like Abraham of old we choose goodness over evil, light over darkness, and we choose life!"