Congolese Doctor, Yazidi Activist, Champions in Fight against Rape in War, Win Nobel Peace Prize

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Combination picture shows the Nobel Prize for Peace 2018 winners
A combination picture shows the Nobel Prize for Peace 2018 winners: Yazidi survivor Nadia Murad posing for a portrait at United Nations headquarters in New York, U.S., March 9, 2017 (L) and Denis Mukwege delivering a speech during an award ceremony to receive his 2014 Sakharov Prize at the European Parliament in Strasbourg November 26, 2014. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/Vincent Kessler
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By Crispin Kyalangalilwa, Ted Siefer and Nerijus Adomaitis
BUKAVU, Democratic Republic of Congo/CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts/OSLO (Reuters) 

Denis Mukwege, a doctor who helps victims of sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Nadia Murad, a Yazidi rights activist and survivor of sexual slavery by Islamic State, won the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize on Friday

They were honoured for their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war, the Norwegian Nobel Committee said.

Denis Mukwege is the helper who has devoted his life to defending these victims. Nadia Murad is the witness who tells of the abuses perpetrated against herself and others,” the Committee said in its citation.

 

U.N. Goodwill Ambassador Murad attends a news conference in Brussels
Yazidi survivor and United Nations Goodwill Ambassador for the Dignity of Survivors of Human Trafficking Nadia Murad attends a news conference during an International Conference on the Victims of Ethnic and Religious Violence in the Middle East, at the Egmont Palace in Brussels, Belgium May 14, 2018. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

 

“Each of them in their own way has helped to give greater visibility to war-time sexual violence, so that the perpetrators can be held accountable for their actions.”

Mukwege heads the Panzi Hospital in the eastern Congo city of Bukavu. The clinic receives thousands of women each year, many of them requiring surgery from sexual violence.

 

Congolese gynaecologist Mukwege delivers a speech during an award ceremony to receive his 2014 Sakharov Prize at the European Parliament in Strasbourg
Congolese gynaecologist Denis Mukwege delivers a speech during an award ceremony to receive his 2014 Sakharov Prize at the European Parliament in Strasbourg November 26, 2014. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler

 

Murad is an advocate for the Yazidi minority in Iraq and for refugee and women’s rights in general. She was enslaved and raped by Islamic State fighters in Mosul, Iraq, in 2014.

“Rape in war has been a crime for centuries. But it was a crime in the shadows. The two laureates have both shone a light on it,” Dan Smith, Director of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), told Reuters.

 

 

Mukwege, a past winner of the United Nations Human Rights Prize and the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize, dedicated his Nobel award to all women affected by rape and sexual violence.

He has performed surgery on scores of women after they had been raped by armed men, and campaigned to highlight their plight. He also provides HIV/AIDS treatment as well as free maternal care.

 

Nadia Murad Basee Taha adresses the European Parliament during an award ceremony for the 2016 Sakharov Prize in Strasbourg
Nadia Murad Basee Taha adresses the European Parliament during an award ceremony for the 2016 Sakharov Prize at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, December 13, 2016. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler

 

Although the Second Congo War, which killed more than five million people, formally ended in 2003, violence remains rampant, with militias frequently targeting civilians.

The Panzi Hospital has also been the target of threats, and in 2012 Mukwege’s home was invaded by armed men who held his daughters at gunpoint, shot at him and killed his bodyguard.

 

Denis Mukwege, a gynaecologist treating victims of sexual violence addresses a news conference after he won the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize at the Panzi Hospital in Bukavu
Denis Mukwege, a gynaecologist treating victims of sexual violence addresses a news conference after he won the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize at the Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, South Kivu Province in the Democratic Republic of Congo October 5, 2018. REUTERS/Crispin Kyalangalilwa

 

Shortly before that attack, he had denounced mass rape in the Democratic Republic of Congo and impunity for it in a speech at the United Nations.

“He has risked his life to help women survive atrocity,” said SIPRI’s Smith.

Mukwege was in the operation room when he was told the news.

 

Suzan Safar Director of Dak organisation reads a book for Nadia Murad, who won the Nobel Peace prize, in Duhok
Suzan Safar Director of Dak organisation reads a book for Nadia Murad, who won the Nobel Peace prize, in Duhok, Iraq October 5, 2018. REUTERS/Ari Jalal

 

Later, speaking at a news conference at the hospital, he said the prize was an important recognition of many women’s trauma.

“Dear survivors all over the world, I would like to tell you that through this prize, the world is listening to you and rejects indifference, the world refuses to stand idly by in the face of your suffering,” he said.

 

Yazidi survivor Nadia Murad poses for a portrait at United Nations headquarters in New York
Yazidi survivor Nadia Murad poses for a portrait at United Nations headquarters in New York, U.S., March 9, 2017. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

 

Wivine Moleka, a member of Congo’s ruling PPRD party, said Mukwege was more than just a doctor.

“He is a humanist who has taken the pain of women into consideration, pain in their flesh and in their soul. The prize sends a strong signal to everyone about these women who are raped every day,” she said.

 

SURVIVAL

Murad said she shared the award “with all Yazidis with all the Iraqis, Kurds and all the minorities and all survivors of sexual violence around the world”.

 

Congolese gynaecologist Mukwege attends an award ceremony to receive his 2014 Sakharov Prize at the European Parliament in Strasbourg
Congolese gynaecologist Denis Mukwege attends an award ceremony to receive his 2014 Sakharov Prize at the European Parliament in Strasbourg November 26, 2014. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler

 

“For myself, I think of my mother, who was murdered by Daesh,” she said said in a statement to Reuters, using an Arabic term for Islamic State.

Murad was 21-years-old in 2014 when Islamic State militants attacked the village where she had grown up in northern Iraq. The militants killed those who refused to convert to Islam, including six of her brothers and her mother.

 

Yazidi children hold pictures of Nadia Murad, who won the Nobel Peace prize, in Duhok
Yazidi children hold pictures of Nadia Murad, who won the Nobel Peace prize, in Duhok, Iraq October 5, 2018. REUTERS/Ari Jalal

 

Along with many of the other young women in her village, she was taken into captivity by the militants, and sold repeatedly for sex as part of Islamic State’s slave trade.

She escaped captivity with the help of a Sunni Muslim family in Mosul, then IS’s de facto capital in Iraq, and became an advocate for the rights of her community around the world.

 

Congolese patients wait to receive medical attention from Dr.Denis Mukwege, at the Panzi Hospital in Bukavu
Congolese patients wait to receive medical attention from Dr.Denis Mukwege, at the Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, South Kivu Province in the Democratic Republic of Congo October 5, 2018. REUTERS/Crispin Kyalangalilwa

 

In 2017, Murad published a memoir of her ordeal, “The Last Girl“. She recounted in harrowing detail her months in captivity, her escape and her journey to activism.

“At some point, there was rape and nothing else. This becomes your normal day,” she wrote.

 

Nadia Murad Basee, a 21-year-old Iraqi woman of the Yazidi faith, speaks to members of the Security Council during a meeting at the United Nations headquarters in New York
Nadia Murad Basee, a 21-year-old Iraqi woman of the Yazidi faith, speaks to members of the Security Council during a meeting at the United Nations headquarters in New York, December 16, 2015. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

 

The United Nations has called the assaults launched by the Sunni militants against the religious minority in northern Iraq a campaign of genocide.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi congratulated her on the award, and Vian Dakhil, a Yazidi member of Iraq’s parliament, said: “It is the victory of good and peace over the forces of darkness.”

Murad, who is also a Sakharov Prize winner, is the second youngest Nobel Prize laureate after Malala Yousafzai.

 

SPEAK UP

The award follows a year in which the abuse and mistreatment of women in all walks of life across the globe has been a focus of attention.

 

Yazidi survivor and United Nations Goodwill Ambassador for the Dignity of Survivors of Human trafficking Nadia Murad greets Kurdish Peshmerga fighters at a defensive point near Sinjar
Yazidi survivor and United Nations Goodwill Ambassador for the Dignity of Survivors of Human trafficking, Nadia Murad, greets Kurdish Peshmerga fighters at a defensive point near Sinjar, Iraq June 1, 2017. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis

 

Asked whether the #metoo movement, a prominent women’s rights activist forum, was an inspiration for this year’s prize, Nobel Committee Chairwoman Berit Reiss-Andersen said: “Metoo and war crimes are not quite the same. But they have in common that they see the suffering of women, the abuse of women and that it is important that women leave the concept of shame behind and speak up.”

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the award was part of a growing movement to recognize the violence and injustice faced by women.

 

Taha, an Iraqi woman of the Yazidi faith who was abducted and held by the Islamic State for three months, walks through a makeshift camp for migrants and refugees at the Greek-Macedonian border near the village of Idomeni
Nadia Murad Basee Taha, an Iraqi woman of the Yazidi faith who was abducted and held by the Islamic State for three months, walks through a makeshift camp for migrants and refugees at the Greek-Macedonian border near the village of Idomeni, Greece, April 3, 2016. REUTERS/Marko Djurica

 

“Let us honour these new Nobel laureates by standing up for victims of sexual violence everywhere,” he said in a statement.

The prize will be presented in Oslo on Dec. 10, the anniversary of the death of Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel, who founded the awards in his 1895 will.

 

(Additional reporting by Fiston Mahamba in Bukavu, Raya Jalabi in Baghdad, Giulia Paravicini in Kinshasa, Tim Cocks in Dakar, Lefteris Karagiannopoulos, Gwladys Fouche and Ole Petter Skonnord in Oslo, Michelle Nichols at the United Nations, Writing by Terje Solsvik and Gwladys Fouche, Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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