Winners Of 2018 Nobel Peace Prize Recognized For Their Fight Against Sexual Violence

Oct 5, 2018
Originally published on October 5, 2018 11:37 pm
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

A Congolese OB-GYN and a woman who was once held captive by ISIS are now winners of the Nobel Peace Prize. The million-dollar award goes to them for their fight against sexual violence during wartime. U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres praised the pair today as defenders of human dignity.

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ANTONIO GUTERRES: This prize also recognizes countless victims around the world who have too often been stigmatized, hidden and forgotten.

SHAPIRO: As NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reports, the Nobel Committee's choice this year was also a nod to the #MeToo movement.

SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON, BYLINE: This year's winners are Dr. Denis Mukwege, who is renowned for his treatment of gang rape victims in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Nadia Murad, a former ISIS sex slave from the Yazidi religious minority in Iraq who campaigns for survivors like herself. Berit Reiss-Andersen, who chairs the Norwegian Nobel Committee that hands out the prize, praised the pair for shining a spotlight on wartime rape.

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BERIT REISS-ANDERSEN: 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. We believe that this is a fundamental prerequisite for lasting peace to also include the rights and the awareness of women.

NELSON: But speaking out comes at a price, Mukwege told NPR's Tell Me More in November 2013. Gunmen tried killing him and his family in their home a year earlier.

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DENIS MUKWEGE: I and my staff - of course we would face danger. And one of our nurse was abducted and tortured before being released.

NELSON: The 63-year-old is the founder of a hospital in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where armed groups have clashed for decades. Mukwege has treated thousands of survivors of wartime sexual violence.

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MUKWEGE: Most of the time, they're rejected by their families. They're rejected by the community. Of course they're stigmatized. So we have a program with psychologists and social assistants who are helping women to help them to be enough strong psychologically before to treat them physically.

NELSON: Fellow laureate Nadia Murad is one of about 3,000 Yazidi women and girls who were raped and abused by ISIS fighters. Murad managed to escape her captors after three months. Two years ago, at the age of 23, she was named the U.N.'s first goodwill ambassador for the dignity of survivors of human trafficking.

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NADIA MURAD: (Foreign language spoken).

NELSON: Murad told a U.N. panel last November that testifying against ISIS militants in courts in Iraq and Europe and seeing them brought to justice has brought hope to victims like herself. She is the 17th woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize in its 117-year history. Dan Smith of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute says he's pleased with the Nobel Committee's selection.

DAN SMITH: You've got a very emotive combination here of a woman who has survived the most appalling atrocity and of a man who works to help women survive most appalling atrocities. So I think it's a great match.

NELSON: The committee's choice is being linked to the attention fostered by the #MeToo movement. Meanwhile, no Nobel Literature Prize is being awarded this year by the Swedish Academy due to a sex abuse scandal involving the husband of one of that committee's members. Jean-Claude Arnault was sentenced in Stockholm this week to two years in prison for rape. Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, NPR News, Berlin. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.