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Nobel peace prize 2018 – Mukwege and Murad are recognised for their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon in war

Two leaders of the struggle against sexual violence in war have won this year’s Nobel peace prize, a choice that will hearten campaigners fighting for greater recognition of a grave but long-neglected problem, and may also bring hope to victims worldwide that their suffering has at last been recognised. The Norwegian Nobel committee said that Denis Mukwege, a doctor in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Nadia Murad, a 25-year-old Yazidi activist, had been awarded the prize “for their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict”.


Mukwege, 63, has spent decades caring for victims of sexual assault in his homeland. Murad has used her own story of enslavement and rape by Islamic State to publicise human rights abuses.

The Nobel committee said on Friday that both had “put their own personal security at risk by courageously combating war crimes and securing justice for victims.” Mukwege was in surgery when he heard he had won the peace prize. He learned he had won because he heard colleagues and patients crying. “I can see in the faces of many women how they are happy to be recognised,” he said.

Nadia Murad emphasised:

“I share this award with all Yazidis, with all the Iraqis, Kurds and all the minorities and all survivors of sexual violence around the world. As a survivor, I am grateful for this opportunity to draw international attention to the plight of the Yazidi people who have suffered unimaginable crimes since the genocide by Daesh (Isis).”

The choice has been universally applauded. Some recent awards have been controversial: the former US president Barack Obama won in 2009 after less than a year in office, and the European Union won in 2012. Last year’s winner was the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons.

The committee said: “Both laureates have made a crucial contribution to focusing attention on, and combating, war crimes. Denis Mukwege is the helper who has devoted his life to defending these victims. Nadia Murad is the witness who tells of the abuses perpetrated against herself and others.”

“Each of them in their own way has helped to give greater visibility to war-time sexual violence, so that the perpetrators can be held accountable for their actions.”


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Mukwege, a gynaecologist, founded and maintains the Panzi hospital in Bukavu, in the east of the DRC, where he has cared for tens of thousands of women who suffered sexual assault in the country’s recurrent civil conflict. Mukwege survived a kidnapping attempt in 2012 but has continued his work.

The committee described him as “the foremost, most unifying symbol both nationally and internationally of the struggle to end sexual violence in war and armed conflict”.

Murad was abducted with other Yazidi women in August 2014 when their home village of Kocho in Sinjar, northern Iraq, was attacked by Isis. Captured alongside her sisters, she lost six brothers and her mother as the extremists killed the village’s men and any women considered too old to be sexually exploited.

She eventually escaped and had shown uncommon courage in repeatedly recounting her own sufferings and speaking up on behalf of other victims, the committee said.

Nadia Murad is the second youngest Nobel peace prize laureate after Malala Yousafzai, who was 17 when she won in 2014.



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