Oslo, Oct 5 (IANS) The Norwegian Nobel Committee on Friday awarded the Peace Prize to former Islamic State (IS) sex slave turned activist Nadia Murad and Congolese doctor Denis Mukwege for their efforts to end the use of rape and sexual abuse against women in times of war and armed conflict.
Murad, 25, is a Yazidi Kurdish human rights activist from Iraq. She was one of an estimated 3,000 girls and women from the minority community who were victims of rape and other abuses by the IS when it overran key cities in the country in August 2014.
She is the second youngest Nobel Peace Prize laureate after Malala Yousafzai, who was 17 when she won the award in 2014. The Iraqi government congratulated her after the announcement.
Mukwege, on the other hand, is a gynaecologist who has been seen as the saviour of victims of sexual violence in his native country, where his surgery has become a refuge and beacon of hope for thousands of women. Through his work, he has earned the moniker “the man who mends women”. He has treated tens of thousands of victims.
The winners announced in the Norwegian capital on Friday won the award for their “efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war”, said Berit Reiss-Andersen, the Nobel Committee Chair.
Both laureates have made “a crucial contribution to focusing attention on and combating such war crimes”, she said.
“Denis Mukwege is the helper, who had devoted his life to defending these victims. Nadia Murad is the witness, who tells of the abuses perpetrated against herself and others. Each of them, in their own way, have helped to give greater visibility to war-time sexual violence, so that the perpetrators can be held accountable for their actions,” Reiss-Andersen added.
The Committee described Mukwege as a unifying symbol of the struggle to end sexual violence in conflicts, not only in his native Democratic Republic of Congo, where civil war has killed over 6 million people, but also within the international community.
Murad became an activist for the Yazidi people after escaping the IS in 2014. She campaigned to help put an end to human trafficking and won the European Union’s prestigious Sakharov Prize in 2016.
In testimony to the US Congress in June 2016, Murad detailed how she and thousands of other Yazidi women and girls enslaved and raped by their IS captors. She recounted how six of her brothers and her mother were executed by the terror group in a single day.
The award ceremony for the Nobel Peace Prize will take place in Oslo’s town hall on December 10, the anniversary of the death of the Nobel Prize founder, Alfred Nobel. The winner will be awarded 9 million Swedish Krona ($1.1 million).
Last year’s Peace Prize winner, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, congratulated Mukwege and Murad, saying “both laureates thoroughly deserve this honour through their incredible work to address sexual violence in conflict”.
European Council President Donald Tusk said: “They have my deepest respect for the courage, compassion and humanity they demonstrate in their daily fight.”
Yousafzai also congratulated the winners on Twitter, saying: “Their work saves lives and helps women speak out about sexual violence.”