Nobel Peace Prize shared by campaigners against using sexual violence as a weapon of war
Congolese doctor Denis Mukwege, who has treated thousands of rape victims, and Yazidi campaigner and former Islamic State sex slave Nadia Murad share the award
Denis Mukwege, a gynaecologist treating victims of sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Nadia Murad, a Yazidi human rights activist and survivor of sexual slavery by Islamic State in Iraq, won the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize on Friday.
The pair won the award for their “efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war”, Norwegian Nobel Committee chairwoman Berit Reiss-Andersen said in unveiling the winners in Oslo.
“A more peaceful world can only be achieved if women and their fundamental rights and security are recognised and protected in war,” she said.
Mukwege, 63, heads the Panzi Hospital in the eastern city of Bukavu.
Opened in 1999, the clinic receives thousands of women each year, many of them requiring surgery from sexual violence.
Mukwege has called on the world to take a tougher line on rape as a weapon of war.
“We have been able to draw a red line against chemical weapons, biological weapons and nuclear arms,” he said in 2016. “We must also draw a red line against rape as a weapon of war.”
He described it as a “cheap and efficient” form of terror which condemns its victims to “a life sentence”.
In Congo, staff at the hospital broke into ecstatic celebrations.
In an interview with the Nobel Foundation, Mukwege said he was just finishing his second operation of the day when the news broke: “It was so touching when I was operating and I heard people start to cry and it was so, so, so touching ... I can see in the face of many women how they are happy to be recognised.”
Mukwege has regularly spoken out against sexual violence in Congo and criticised long-serving President Joseph Kabila, saying: “We are governed by people who don’t love us.”
“The government congratulates Doctor Denis Mukwege for the very important work he does although there are often disagreements between us,” government spokesman Lambert Mende said. “We have had differences with Denis Mukwege every time that he tried to politicise his work.”
Murad was enslaved and raped by Islamic State fighters in Mosul in 2014.
She said in a statement she was honoured and humbled to be named a Nobel Peace Prize laureate: “I share this award with all Yazidis, with all the Iraqis, Kurds and all the minorities and all survivors of sexual violence around the world.”
The 25-year-old once lived a quiet life in her village near the mountainous Yazidi stronghold of Sinjar in northern Iraq, close to the border with Syria.
But when Islamic State extremists stormed across parts of the two countries in 2014, her fate changed forever and her nightmare began.
In August that year, pickup trucks bearing the black flag of the extremists swept into her village, Kocho. IS fighters set about killing the men, taking children captive to train them as fighters and condemning thousands of women to a life of forced labour and sexual slavery.
IS fighters wanted “to take our honour, but they lost their honour”, said Murad, now a United Nations goodwill ambassador for survivors of human trafficking.
During her three-month ordeal she was held captive and repeatedly gang-raped, tortured and beaten.
Shocked by the violence, Murad set about trying to escape, and managed to flee with the help of a Muslim family from Mosul. But six of her brothers and her mother were killed.
With the help of an organisation that helps Yazidis, she joined her sister in Germany, where she lives today.
She has since dedicated herself to what she calls “our peoples’ fight”.
Agence France-Presse, Associated Press, Reuters