Norwegian Nobel Committee Announces 2018 Peace Prize Winner

Oct 5, 2018
Originally published on October 5, 2018 7:35 am
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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Hey. We now know the recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize. The announcement came this morning from the Nobel Institute in Oslo. Their names are Dr. Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad. Both have worked on the issue of violence against women. Berit Reiss-Andersen, the chair of the Nobel Committee, explained the award this way.

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BERIT REISS-ANDERSEN: A more peaceful world can only be achieved if women and their fundamental rights and security are recognized and protected in war.

INSKEEP: NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson is covering this story. Hi there, Soraya.

SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: These winners will be new names to most people listening, I would think. Who are they?

NELSON: Well, Denis Mukwege is a doctor in the Democratic Republic of Congo who is world-renowned for his treatment of gang rape victims, especially for healing their trauma, like, the trauma that they suffer physically inside. He's known as the world leader on that. And Nadia Murad is a Yazidi woman, one of about 3,000 Yazidis who were captured and turned into sex slaves by ISIS during the war in Iraq - or during their war, I should say, in Iraq and Syria. And she escaped and became a really vocal spokesperson for the victims of these sorts of crimes. The committee says that they selected these two for making crucial contributions for focusing attention on and fighting war crimes. He's seen as the helper who devoted his life to defending victims, and she as the witness who speaks bravely about the horrific abuses against her and others.

INSKEEP: I was just thinking about that. What a remarkable thing to do, not only to escape, to survive that ordeal, but to talk about it afterwards, something that's very difficult for anyone to discuss, to talk about it publicly and advocate for people.

NELSON: Absolutely. I mean, she is one of the few. Many of them are too afraid to speak. And she was, last year, named as a U.N. ambassador for her efforts. Basically, the first goodwill ambassador for the dignity of survivors of human trafficking.

INSKEEP: And how did Dr. Mukwege rise to global prominence?

NELSON: Well, he's known as Dr. Miracle, again, for his just absolute skill and his absolute devotion to these women and victims of gang rape in war in his country. And, basically, the committee says that he's the foremost most unifying symbol, both nationally and internationally, of the struggle to end sexual violence in war and armed conflict.

INSKEEP: When you say in war, is this dangerous work to be helping the victims of sexual violence in a wartime situation?

NELSON: Yeah. Absolutely. He has faced many death threats and, basically, there's one in September 2012 where he gave a speech decrying the horrors of mass rape in Congo at the U.N., and then a month later, gunmen came into his home and tried to kill him, his wife and their two daughters. His guard was the only person that managed to save them. And after the shootout, basically they played - the family played dead, and then he left Congo shortly thereafter.

INSKEEP: Wow. And still alive to receive this Nobel Prize. Is this the Nobel Committee's comment, in a sense, on the #MeToo movement around the world?

NELSON: Absolutely. This is something - basically, the committee said that sexual violence is really important to stop if there's going to ever be peace in the world, especially in wartime. It's also important to notice this is only the 17th time that a woman has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

INSKEEP: OK. Soraya, thanks so much. Really appreciate it.

NELSON: You're welcome, Steve.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.