The 2018 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded on Friday to two campaigners against wartime sexual violence: Dr. Denis Mukwege, 63, a Congolese gynecological surgeon; and Nadia Murad, 25, who became the bold voice of the women who survived sexual violence by the Islamic State.
The Norwegian Nobel Committee said the two were given the award “for their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict.”
Dr. Mukwege campaigned relentlessly to shine a spotlight on the plight of Congolese women, even after nearly being assassinated a few years ago. Ms. Murad, who was held captive by the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, has told and retold her story of suffering to organizations around the world, helping to persuade the United States State Department to recognize the genocide of her people at the hands of the terrorist group.
In a year when the “Me Too” movement has turned the world’s attention to survivors of sexual assault and abuse, the Nobel Committee’s decision focused on the continuing global campaign to end the use of mass rape as a weapon in global conflict.
Dr. Mukwege works in one of the most traumatized places on the planet: the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
In a bare hospital in the hills above Bukavu, where for years there was little electricity or enough anesthetic, he has performed surgery on countless women. He has emerged as a champion of the Congolese people and a global advocate for gender equality and the elimination of rape in war, traveling to other war-ravaged parts of the world to help create programs for survivors.
“It’s not a women question; it’s a humanity question, and men have to take responsibility to end it,” Dr. Mukwege once said in an interview. “It’s not an Africa problem. In Bosnia, Syria, Liberia, Colombia, you have the same thing.”
In 2012, Dr. Mukwege delivered a fiery speech at the United Nations, upbraiding the Congolese government and other nations for not doing enough to stop what he called “an unjust war that has used violence against women and rape as a strategy of war.”
His advocacy nearly cost him his life. Shortly after the speech, when he returned to Congo, four armed men crept into his compound in Bukavu. They took his children hostage and waited for him to return from work. In the hail of bullets that followed, his guard was killed, but Dr. Mukwege threw himself on the ground and somehow survived.
He spent more than two months in exile but decided that, in spite of the risk, he had to return.
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SOURCE: New York Times, Rukmini Callimachi, Jeffrey Gettleman, Nicholas Kulish and Benjamin Mueller