BY EBENEZER NKUNDA
The Nobel Peace Prize is awarded to those who have done honorable efforts in four main areas: arms control and disarmament, peace negotiation, democracy and human rights, and work aimed at creating a better organized and more peaceful world. The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided to award the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize to Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad for their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict. Both Mukwege and Murad have made meaningful contributions in their home countries and throughout the world to bring attention to these war crimes.
Dr. Denis Mukwege is a world-renowned gynecological surgeon who is the founder and medical director of Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, Democratic Republic of the Congo. He founded the Panzi Hospital in 1999 as a clinic for gynecological and obstetric care, and expected to be working on issues of maternal healthcare. However, when the Second Congo War began, which took the lives of almost 6 million Congolese lives, rape had continually been used as a weapon, and the amount of sexual violence towards women and children increased drastically. Since 1999, Dr. Mukwege and his staff have helped to care for more than 50,000 survivors of sexual violence. The hospital not only treats survivors with physical wounds, but also provides legal, and psycho-social services to its patients in a center called the City of Joy.
Dr. Nadia Murad herself is a survivor of sexual violence. In 2014 she was captured and endured months as a sex slave at the hands of Islamic State militants after they swept through the area of northern Iraq where she lived with her family and killed several hundred people. During her time in captivity, Murad was bought and sold several times and was subject to sexual and physical abuse, including threats that she would be killed if she did not convert to their hateful, oppressive version of Islam. The sexual abuses of the Islamic State army were systematic, a part of their military strategy, and therefore a weapon of war. After three months as a captive, Murad managed to flee—and she did not stay quiet.
Dr. Denis Mukwege and Dr. Nadia Murad have both risked their lives and the lives of their families by speaking their truth, calling out the perpetrators of war crimes, and seeking justice for the victims. They have continually used their platform to draw attention to the issue of rape as a weapon of war and to speak up for the voiceless in this inhuman human rights violation.