Nobel Peace Prize

Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad, fighters of war-time sexual violence, share 2018 award

Denis Mukwege

Photo: © Claude Truong-Ngoc / Wikimedia
Denis Mukwege accepts the Sakharov Prize, presented by European Parliament on Nov. 26, 2014.

Nobel Peace Prize

The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided to award the Nobel Peace Prize for 2018 to Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad for their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict. Mukwege has devoted his life to defending these victims. Murad is the witness who tells of the abuses perpetrated against her and others. Each has helped to give greater visibility to war-time sexual violence, so that the perpetrators can be held accountable for their actions.

Physician Mukwege has spent much of his adult life helping victims of sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Since the Panzi Hospital was established in Bukavu in 1999, Mukwege and his staff have treated thousands of patients who have been assaulted. Most of the abuses have been committed in the context of a long-lasting civil war that has cost the lives of more than 6 million Congolese.

Mukwege is the foremost symbol, both nationally and internationally, of the struggle to end sexual violence in armed conflicts. His basic principle is that “justice is everyone’s business.” Men and women, officers and soldiers, and local, national, and international authorities alike all share responsibility for combating this type of war crime. Mukwege has repeatedly condemned impunity for mass rape and criticized the Congolese government and other countries for not doing enough to stop the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war.

Nadia Murad

Photo: Wikimedia Commons / U.S. Department of State
Nadia Murad in Washington.

Murad is a survivor of war crimes. She refused to accept the social codes that require women to remain silent and ashamed of the abuses to which they have been subjected. She has shown uncommon courage in recounting her own sufferings and speaking up on behalf of other survivors.

Murad is a member of the Yazidi minority in northern Iraq, where she lived with her family in the remote village of Kocho. In August 2014 the Islamic State (IS) launched a brutal, systematic attack on the villages of the Sinjar district, aimed at exterminating the Yazidi population. In Murad’s village, several hundred people were massacred. The younger women, including underage children, were abducted and held as sex slaves. While a captive of the IS, Murad was repeatedly subjected to rape and other abuses. Her assaulters threatened to execute her if she did not convert to their hateful version of Islam.

Murad is one of an estimated 3,000 Yazidi girls and women who were victims of rape and other abuses by the IS army. The abuses were systematic and part of a military strategy against Yazidis and other religious minorities.

After a three-month nightmare, Murad managed to flee. She has since chosen to speak openly about what she had suffered. In 2016, at the age of 23, she was named the UN’s first Goodwill Ambassador for the Dignity of Survivors of Human Trafficking.

This year marks a decade since the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1820, which determined that the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict constitutes a war crime. This is also set out in the Rome Statute of 1998, which governs the work of the International Criminal Court.   

Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad have both put their personal security at risk by courageously combating war crimes and seeking justice for victims. They have thereby promoted the fraternity of nations through the application of principles of international law.

This article originally appeared in the October 19, 2018, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.