By Rukmini Callimachi, Jeffrey Gettleman, Nicholas Kulish and Benjamin Mueller
New York Times News Service
In the midst of a global reckoning over sexual violence, a Yazidi woman who was a captive of the Islamic State group and a Congolese gynecological surgeon were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for their campaigns to end the use of mass rape as a weapon of war.
The award went to Nadia Murad, who became a bold, dignified voice for women who survived sexual violence by the Islamic State, and to Dr. Denis Mukwege, who has treated thousands of women in a country once called the rape capital of the world.
They have worked through grave risks to their own lives to help survivors and bring their stories to the world.
“We want to send out a message of awareness that women, who constitute half of the population in most communities, actually are used as a weapon of war, and that they need protection and that the perpetrators have to be prosecuted and held responsible for their actions,” Berit Reiss-Andersen, chairwoman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, said.
Murad, 25, was singled out for rape by the Islamic State after being abducted alongside thousands of other women and girls from the Yazidi minority in northern Iraq in 2014. Murad insisted to reporters that she wanted to be identified and photographed, and her advocacy helped to persuade the U.S. State Department to recognize the genocide of her people at the hands of the terrorist group.
Mukwege, 63, 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 performed surgery on countless women. He campaigned relentlessly to bring attention to their plight.
On Friday, Mukwege told reporters: “This Nobel Prize reflects the recognition of suffering and the lack of a just reparation for women victims of rape and sexual violence in all countries of the world and on all continents.”
He also dedicated his prize to “women of all countries bruised by conflict and facing everyday violence.”
In a statement, Murad congratulated Mukwege and said she was “incredibly honored and humbled.” She said she shared the award “with Yazidis, Iraqis, Kurds, other persecuted minorities and all of the countless victims of sexual violence around the world.”