Nobel Peace Prize winners demand end to sexual violence as a weapon of war

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Two inspirational campaigners spoke of the fight against rape and sexual violence as weapons of war when they received their Nobel Peace Prizes today.

Dr Denis Mukwege, a doctor who helps victims in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Nadia Murad, a Yazidi rights activist and survivor of sexual slavery by Islamic State, were honoured in Oslo.

Fittingly, they accepted their joint prizes on the 70th anniversary of the Declaration of Human Rights.

Dr Mukwege, a 63-year-old gynaecologist, said: “For all women, for all men and children of Congo, I call upon you not only to award this Nobel Peace Prize to my country’s people, but to stand up and together say loudly ‘The violence in the DRC, it’s enough. Enough is enough. Peace, now’.”

Murad, 25 – one of an estimated 3000 Yazidi girls and women who were victims of rape and other abuses by Islamic State in Iraq – said: “Today is a special day for me. It is the day when good has triumphed over evil, the day when humanity defeated terrorism, the day that the children and women who have suffered persecution have triumphed over the perpetrators of these crimes.”

The pair had been named as joint winners of the Nobel Peace Prize in October.

Nobel Prize committee chairwoman Berit Reiss-Andersen said: “Both Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad have made significant contributions to combating this type of war crime by focusing attention on the suffering inflicted on women in Iraq, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and everywhere else in the world where sexual violence is used as a weapon. 

“We must be aware of these crimes if we are to combat them. The war waged on women through the use of sexual violence has been a hidden war.”

The clinic founded by Dr Mukwege treats thousands of women and girls each year in the DRC. It led to the Global Survivors Network of women sharing their experiences to effect change.

Accepting his award, he told of the horrors of rape and sexual violence in his country and demanded that the perpetrators be prosecuted.

He said: “With this Nobel Peace Prize, I call on the world to be a witness and I urge you to join us in order to put an end to this suffering that shames our common humanity.”

Theirworld President Sarah Brown – who interviewed Mukwege for a special episode of her Better Angels podcast – said: “Where girls and women are subjected to horrific sexual violence they can lose hope – were it not for the likes of Dr Mukwege and Nadia.

“And where girls can be kept safe in schools they have the opportunity to learn, thrive, protect themselves better and have a brighter future.”

Murad’s life was shattered in 2014 when militants attacked her village, killing six of her brothers and her mother. After three months of torture and beatings, she escaped captivity and began to talk about her ordeal.

In her acceptance speech, Murad told how her childhood dream had been to finish high school and open a beauty parlour. That dream was brutally shattered at the hands of Islamic State extremists.

She added: “Education plays an essential role in nurturing civilised societies that believe in tolerance and peace. 

“Therefore, we must invest in our children because children, like a blank slate, can be taught tolerance and co-existence instead of hatred and sectarianism.”

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