Six years ago, at the age of 26, Laila Talo Khuder Alali was sold as a sex slave eight times to men of different nationalities by militants of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Standing in a hotel auditorium in India's commercial hub of Mumbai to receive an award in the name of St. Mother Teresa, she told of how her husband and a child were still missing. Several of her family members had been killed, but eight were rescued. Those missing are among more than 3,000 people known as 'Yazidis'
still in ISIS captivity, Alali said when receiving the Mother Teresa Memorial Award for Social Justice Oct. 21. The militants of ISIS are accused of perpetrating genocide against the Yazidi, a religious minority group in northern Iraq.
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Yazidism combines elements of Islam, Christianity, Judaism and Zoroastrianism. ISIS, also known simply as Islamic State, seeks to wipe out their faith. "We faced torture, sexual slavery and unimaginable acts," the 30-year-old woman recounted at the award ceremony in Mumbai. "I was sold eight times to different men with girls as young as 10." Alali told ucanews.com that receiving the award had strengthened her resolve to fight for women to be able to lead a life of dignity. Alali was among 17 people selected by the Harmony Foundation, a volunteer group based in Mumbai, for this year's Mother Teresa award. The award recognizes the efforts of people who fight against the exploitation of women and strive for their empowerment, Foundation director Abraham Mathai told ucanews.com. He said Alali, despite the hardships of her 2014 to 2017 captivity, had gone on to inspire other women to struggle for freedom. "It is shocking that even in the 21st century, we are still discussing women and children being protected against abuse
," Mathai said. "This just shows that we still have a long way to go." AlIdris Bashar Silo Taha, a 40-year-old Yazidi, was honoured for rescuing nearly 300 Yazidi women from captivity, including Alali. "I was injured when ISIS tried to execute Yazidis in 2014," Taha said, as he sought international financial help to free those still in captivity. "Twenty-eight members of my family were abducted and nine of them are still missing." The theme of this year's award was 'Celebrate Her, Protect Her, Empower He'. Awardees included Salman Sufi, an American citizen of Pakistan origin who provided legal, medical and counseling services to women victims of abuse in Pakistan. Another one of those honoured was Catholic Sister Lucy Kurien
, founder-director of the 22-year-old inter-faith organization in India called Maher, which translates as 'Mother's Home'. She takes care of some 1,500 destitute and abandoned women in 44 homes spread across three states. Activist Laxmi Agarwal, the poster girl for acid attack survivors in India, was also recognized. Agarwal described the award as a recognition that victims of gross mistreatment could still with dignity pick up the pieces of their shattered lives. The 29-year-old Agarwal was disfigured when a stalker threw acid at her in 2005 in the Indian capital, New Delhi. Multiple corrective surgical operations later, she went on to become a crusader against crimes committed against women. The Harmony Foundation was launched in 2005 to tackle discrimination based on religion, caste, creed, gender, region or nationality.