(L-R) Ruben Vardanyan, Vartan Gregorian, recipient of the 2019 Aurora Prize Mirza Dinnayi and Noubar Afeyan onstage at the 2019 Aurora Forum on October 19, 2019, Yerevan, Armenia.
By: Lori Najarian
(YEREVAN)- Yazidi activist Dr. Mirza Dinnayi received the Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity on October 19 during an official ceremony at Freedom Square in Yerevan, Armenia. Dr. Dinnayi, is the co-founder of Air Bridge Iraq (Luftbrucke Irak), a humanitarian organization that has flown up to 150 women and children from Iraq to Germany for medical help. For twelve years, Dinnayi has dedicated his life in helping hundreds of women and children flee from territories controlled by ISIS and helped deliver aid to isolated Yazidi communities.
This is the fourth Aurora Prize awarded as part of the eight-year Aurora Humanitarian Initiative dedicated to the memory of survivors of the Armenian Genocide and gratitude to their saviours.
Mirza Dinnayi will receive a $1,000,000 grant which he will use to support three organizations- Air Bridge Iraq, SEED Foundation (provides legal protection and long-term trauma care) and Shai Fund- that provide medical care and rehabilitation to victims of ISIS terror.
Despite almost losing his life in a helicopter accident in the Sinjar Mountains during a mission in 2014, Dinnayi found a deeper faith in his survival and the strength and courage to keep going. During the press conference this evening, he shared that: “You cannot stop, because for one minute if you stop you will feel guilty.”
Mirza Dinnayi also has helped with the integration process of some Yazidi women despite community reluctance to accept them due to cultural biases. Dinnayi has been able to convince the Yazidi religious leaders to help re-integrate these victims, who had endured unimaginable horrors while in ISIS captivity, back into their society.
Vartan Gregorian, Co-Founder of the Aurora Prize and Member of the Selection Committee, said: “The Aurora Humanitarian Initiative empowers those who risk everything for the sake of others and show extraordinary courage and conviction in situations of adversity,” he added: “Mirza Dinnayi is a perfect example of that. He embodies the power of compassion, of personal commitment, of a burning desire to save lives… 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.”
Despite the magnitude of his consistent selfless action and dedication to the Yazidi crisis, Dr. Dinnayi’s humble and modest nature was seen as he denied to be labeled as a hero and claimed to merely be “a son of a farmer”. He believed “that every single one of us has a hero inside us”, reminding us all that humanitarianism is not a superpower but a commitment we choose to make.
Tom Catena, Aurora Humanitarian Initiative Chair, an Aurora Prize Laureate himself, praised the Yazidi activist by saying: “Trying to help others while facing an unspeakable evil can be challenging and frustrating, but he never wavered.”
The Aurora Humanitarian Initiative also showed their profound appreciation to the remaining two finalists by awarding $50, 000 each to: Zannah Bukar Mustapha, director and founder of the Future Prowess Islamic Foundation in Nigeria, and Huda Al-Sarari, Yemeni lawyer and activist.