Iraqi human rights advocate likely can't enter US to accept award from NH organization
CONCORD - An Iraqi woman who's one of ISIS' "most wanted" for her work against terrorism there might not be able to accept a prestigious award for that work.
Vian Dakhil is the recipient of this year's Lantos Human Rights Prize, an award given by The Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice based in Concord. The award is named after the only Holocaust survivor to ever serve in Congress, Tom Lantos.
However, President Donald Trump's travel ban, which was instituted last week by executive order, might prevent her from accepting the award in person next week in Washington, D.C.
Lantos' daughter, Katrina Lantos Swett, is now President of foundation. She said they are working with federal officials to try and grant Dakhil entry into the United States.
"We reached out to the State Department," Lantos Swett said, saying Dakhil has a visa and permission from her country to travel to the U.S. "We still have no clear indication, one way or another, that she will be permitted to come."
The award ceremony is scheduled for Feb. 8, when Dakhil will join a prestigious list of previous recipients, including Elie Wiesel, Paul Ruseseabagina and the Dalai Lama.
Lantos Swett said a "straight line" can be drawn between a speech Dakhil gave in 2014 and the world getting involved in the fight against ISIS.
Dakhil is a member of the Iraq Parliament and gave emotional testimony about the terrorist group killing and enslaving Yazidi people -- a religious group Dakhil is a part of -- in her country.
That was when the world, including the United States, narrowed its focus on ISIS and fighting the terrorist group overseas. Dakhil has worked in the years since to ensure the safety and rights of her people, earning her the Lantos Prize.
"She is an example of exactly the kind of friend and ally that we need working with us, by our side to defeat the terror threat from groups like ISIS and others," Lantos Swett said.
She also said the foundation thinks it's ironic and tragic the travel ban will keep Dakhil from getting recognized for her work.
"She's a brave and heroic human rights activist from a very dangerous part of the world has permission from her government to travel and has a visa to come into this country, but the door is being slammed shut," she said. "She's caught up in an order that is broad-brushed and careless and targets whole communities, whole nations of people."
If the State Department does not permit the recipient to travel next week, Lantos Swett said there will be an empty seat left for Dakhil during the ceremony.
"I don't think there's anybody who disagrees with the goal of trying to do everything legal and constitutional to protect American citizens from the threat of terror attacks," Lantos Swett said. "That's a goal we all support. The case of Vian Dakhil vividly illustrates just how ill-conceived this executive order is."
The foundation has asked the State Department for permission for Dakhil to travel and launched a social media campaign, #NoBanLetVianIn.