Doctor, ex-slave win peace prize

Pair hailed for fighting sexual abuse as weapon of war

Congolese doctor Denis Mukwege and Yazidi campaigner Nadia Murad won the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for their work in fighting sexual violence in armed conflicts around the world.

The pair won the award “for their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict”, Nobel committee chair Berit Reiss-Andersen said in unveiling the winners in Oslo, an announcement which won international praise.

“A more peaceful world can only be achieved if women and their fundamental rights and security are recognised and protected in war,” she said.

One a doctor, the other a former Islamic State sex slave, both have come to represent the struggle against a global scourge which goes well beyond any single conflict, as the #MeToo movement has shown.

The prize was announced as #MeToo marks its first anniversary after a year in which allegations of sexual abuse, rape and harassment have toppled dozens of powerful men.

By recognising the pair's work, the Nobel committee has placed a spotlight on the use of sexual violence in war as a global problem.

Mukwege, 63, was recognised for two decades of work to help women recover from the violence and trauma of sexual abuse and rape in the wartorn eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

Women, children and even babies just a few months old, Mukwege has treated tens of thousands of victims of rape at Panzi hospital which he founded in 1999 in South Kivu.

Known as “Doctor Miracle”, he is an outspoken critic of the abuse of women during war who has described rape as “a weapon of mass destruction”.

“Denis Mukwege is the foremost, most unifying symbol, both nationally and internationally, of the struggle to end sexual violence in armed conflicts,” Reiss-Andersen said.

Alongside Mukwege, the committee honoured Murad, a 25-year-old Iraqi woman from the Yazidi community who was kidnapped by Islamic State militants in 2014 and endured three months as a sex slave before managing to escape.

She was one of thousands of Yazidi women and girls who were abducted, raped and brutalised by jihadists during their assault on the Kurdish minority, which the United Nations has described as genocide.

Her nightmare began when the jihadists stormed her village in northern Iraq in August 2014.

“The first thing they did was force us to convert to Islam. After conversion, they did whatever they wanted.”

The Nobel committee said Murad had shown uncommon courage in recounting her own sufferings.

“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,” Reiss-Andersen said.

“Each of them in their own way has helped to give greater visibility to war-time sexual violence, so that the perpetrators can be held accountable.”

The UN hailed the Nobel awards as “a fantastic announcement”, with spokesperson Alessandra Vellucci saying it would “help advance the cause of ending sexual violence as a weapon of conflict”.

Mukwege and Murad will receive the prize at a ceremony in Oslo on December 10, the anniversary of the death of prize creator Alfred Nobel, who died in 1896.

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