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Aurora honors the Yazidi activist for rescuing more than 1,500 victims of terror and rehabilitating hundreds of ex-ISIS sex slaves

October 19, 2019 – Yerevan, Armenia – The fourth annual Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity was awarded today to Mirza Dinnayi, Co-Founder and Director of Luftbrücke Irak (Air Bridge Iraq). Driven by his passion to save lives, the Yazidi activist has found a way to overcome numerous bureaucratic and logistic obstacles to help the most vulnerable members of the Yazidi community during numerous conflicts in Syria and Iraq. He was named the 2019 Aurora Laureate at the Ceremony in Yerevan that was held during the Aurora Forum. The Aurora Prize is granted by the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative on behalf of the survivors of the Armenian Genocide and in gratitude to their saviors.

Tom Catena, Aurora Humanitarian Initiative Chair and 2017 Aurora Prize Laureate, praised the 2019 Aurora Prize Laureate Mirza Dinnayi by saying: “What makes Mirza Dinnayi an outstanding human being is the fact he couldn’t live in good conscience knowing that good people are left behind, that the innocent are suffering. Trying to help others while facing an unspeakable evil can be challenging and frustrating, but he never wavered. I am delighted to congratulate Mirza Dinnayi with being awarded with the Prize and welcome him to the Aurora family.”

As the 2019 Aurora Prize Laureate, Mirza Dinnayi will receive a $1,000,000 grant, through which he is given the opportunity to continue the cycle of giving by supporting organizations that have inspired his work. He has chosen to donate the funds to three organizations that provide medical care and rehabilitation to victims of ISIS terror:

  • Air Bridge Iraq;
  • SEED Foundation;
  • Shai Fund.

Vartan Gregorian, Co-Founder of the Aurora Prize and Member of the Selection Committee, added: “The Aurora Humanitarian Initiative empowers those who risk everything for the sake of others and show extraordinary courage and conviction in situations of adversity, and Mirza Dinnayi is a perfect example of that. He embodies the power of compassion, of personal commitment, of a burning desire to save lives. As one of the Aurora Co-Founders and a member of the Selection Committee, I am very proud that our shared vision has helped showcase the work of Mirza Dinnayi, who now, without doubt, will be able to achieve even more.”

Working on behalf of the Yazidi community, Mirza Dinnayi has dedicated his whole life to saving the victims of the Iraq war, evacuating women and children from territories controlled by ISIS and providing those tortured and violated with rehabilitation and support. It was Dinnayi who brought to Germany the future Sakharov Prize Laureate Lamya Haji Bashar. Today, she is a renowned human rights activist and has one of Aurora’s scholarships named after her.

Leading international humanitarian figures and Aurora Prize Selection Committee members, including Nobel Laureates Shirin Ebadi and Leymah Gbowee; former president of Ireland Mary Robinson; former foreign minister of Australia and President Emeritus of the International Crisis Group Gareth Evans; former president of Mexico Ernesto Zedillo and Director of the Institute of Global Health Innovation at Imperial College London and Chair of the Aurora Prize Selection Committee Lord Ara Darzi gathered in Armenia to attend the inaugural Aurora Forum and celebrate the 2019 Aurora Prize Laureate.

Previous Aurora Prize Laureates include several noted international humanitarians – Burundian activist Marguerite Barankitse (2016), American physician and missionary Dr. Tom Catena (2017) and Rohingya lawyer and human rights campaigner Kyaw Hla Aung (2018).

Nobel Prize Laureate and a member of the Aurora Prize Selection Committee Leymah Gbowee commented: “The very name of the Aurore Prize for Awakening Humanity contains the most important message of this unique award. Right now, the world feels the need for humanity to rise and for people to step up. Mirza Dinnayi, whose courage and selflessness are a credit to his people, is doing just that: taking care of women and children, who suffer the most in a conflict situation, and putting himself at risk to save others. What an outstanding humanitarian.”

The Aurora Humanitarian Initiative also honored the contributions of the other two 2019 Aurora Humanitarians who received a $50,000 grant each: Zannah Bukar Mustapha, Director and Founder of Future Prowess Islamic Foundation in Nigeria, and Huda Al-Sarari, Yemeni lawyer and activist.

The 2019 Aurora Prize Ceremony was part of the Aurora Forum, held in Armenia on October 14–21, 2019 and convening thought leaders and change-makers from across the world to share knowledge, perspective and ideas, which together can deliver practical action and change. The Forum far-reaching agenda is driven by partner institutions with a shared commitment to address global challenges and local development.

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About the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative

Founded on behalf of the survivors of the Armenian Genocide and in gratitude to their saviors, the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative seeks to empower modern-day saviors to offer life and hope to those in urgent need of basic humanitarian aid anywhere in the world and thus continue the cycle of giving internationally. The Aurora Humanitarian Initiative is Gratitude in Action. It is an eight-year commitment (2015 to 2023, in remembrance of the eight years of the Armenian Genocide 1915-1923) to support people and promote global projects that tackle the needs of the most helpless and destitute and do so at great risk. This is achieved through the Initiative’s various programs: The Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity, the Aurora Dialogues, the Aurora Humanitarian Index, the Gratitude Projects and the 100 LIVES Initiative. The Aurora Humanitarian Initiative is the vision of philanthropists Vartan Gregorian, Noubar Afeyan and Ruben Vardanyan who have been joined by more than 440 new supporters and partners. Our Chair, Dr. Tom Catena, draws on his experience as a surgeon, veteran, humanitarian and the 2017 Aurora Prize laureate to spread the message of Gratitude in Action to a global audience. The Initiative welcomes all who embrace a commitment to our shared humanity. 

The Aurora Humanitarian Initiative is represented by three organizations – Aurora Humanitarian Initiative Foundation, Inc. (New York, USA), the 100 Lives Foundation (Geneva, Switzerland) and the IDeA Foundation (Yerevan, Armenia). 

Further information is available at www.auroraprize.com