Sat, Dec 08, 2018 - Page 13 News List

Nobel to honor champions of struggle against sexual violence

AFP, Oslo

Congolese doctor Denis Mukwege, left, and Yazidi activist Nadia Murad are set to receive the Nobel Peace Prize “for their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict.”

Photo: AFP

Champions of the fight against sexual violence, Congolese doctor Denis Mukwege and Yazidi activist Nadia Murad, a former captive of Islamic militants, will on Monday receive the Nobel Peace Prize, which this year highlights rape as a weapon of war.

Murad, 25, and Mukwege, 63, will be jointly presented with the prize in Oslo, after they were announced as winners by the Norwegian Nobel Committee in October this year for “their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict.”

Mukwege, called “Doctor Miracle” for his surgical skills, has spent 20 years treating the horrendous wounds and intense emotional trauma inflicted on women in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s (DR Congo) war-torn east.

He has been scathing about the world’s lackluster response to sexual violence in conflict.

“We have been able to draw a red line against chemical weapons, biological weapons and nuclear arms,” he said in 2016. “Today we must also draw a red line against rape as a weapon of war.”

Fellow laureate Murad has become a tireless campaigner for the rights of Yazidis since surviving the horrors of captivity under the Islamic State (IS) group, who stormed across swathes of Iraq and Syria targeting her Kurdish-speaking community.

Captured in 2014, she suffered forced marriage, beatings and gang rape before she was able to escape.

The pair have dedicated their prize to the hundreds of thousands of women around the world who have endured sexual violence.

“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,” Nobel Committee chairwoman Berit Reiss-Andersen said when the award was announced on Oct. 5.

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

QUEST FOR JUSTICE

The co-laureates have come to represent the struggle against a global scourge that goes well beyond any single conflict, as the #MeToo movement has shown.

Mukwege has treated tens of thousands of victims — women, children and even babies just a few months old — at Panzi Hospital, which he founded in 1999 in the DR Congo’s South Kivu.

Murad was among thousands of Yazidi women and girls who were abducted, raped and brutalized by Islamic militants during their assault in 2014.

Older women and men faced summary execution during the IS assault, which the UN has described as a possible genocide. Her mother and six of her brothers were killed.

Murad is now a UN ambassador for victims of human trafficking at the forefront of efforts to protect the Yazidi community and find justice for the victims of the militants — a mission she has embarked on with international human rights lawyer Amal Clooney.

In early December, a UN team authorized to investigate the massacre of the Yazidi minority said it would finally start fieldwork next year.

More than 6,800 Yazidis were kidnapped, of which 4,300 either escaped or were bought as slaves, while 2,500 remain missing, according to a recent report from the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH).

“For me, justice doesn’t mean killing all of the Daesh members who committed these crimes against us,” Murad said in October in Washington, using an Arabic acronym for IS.

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