The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded Friday to Congolese doctor Denis Mukwege and Yazidi activist Nadia Murad. The two were honored for their work against the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war.
The Norwegian Nobel Committee said they “have made a crucial contribution to focusing attention on, and combating, such war crimes.”
The committee noted that “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.”
Mukwege founded a hospital in eastern Congo’s city of Bukavu and has treated thousands of victims of sexual violence. Armed men tried to kill him in 2012, forcing him to temporarily leave the country.
Mukwege was in the operation room when he was told the news of his award. He said, “I can see in the faces of many women how they are happy to be recognized.”
Nadia Murad is a human rights activist who, in the words of the committee, “has shown uncommon courage … in speaking up.”
When she was 21, Islamic State militants attacked her village in northern Iraq, and she was forced into sexual slavery. She is one of an estimated 3,000 Yazidi women who were victims of rape and other abuses by the Islamic State militants. She escaped after three months with the help of a Muslim family.
Murad wrote “The Last Girl” to tell the story of her capture, the loss of her family and her escape. “At some point, there was rape and nothing else. This becomes your normal day,” she wrote.
After the award was announced, Murad’s brother told Norwegian public broadcaster NRK, “She’s crying right now. She’s crying, she can’t talk.”
Berit Reiss-Andersen is chairwoman of the Nobel committee. She said, “We want to send a message that women who constitute half the population in those communities actually are used as weapons and that they need protection, and that the perpetrators have to be prosecuted and held responsible.”
Congo’s opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi said, “I am proud to be Congolese.” He also wrote on Twitter, “Good done for others always ends up being rewarded.”
In Iraq, state TV stopped regular programming to report on Murad’s win. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi congratulated her on the award. And a Yazidi member of Iraq’s parliament said, “It is the victory of good and peace over the forces of darkness.”
Both honorees are the first from their countries to receive a Nobel Prize. The 2018 prize is worth 9 million Swedish kronor, about $1.01 million.
Last year’s winner was the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons.
I’m Kelly Jean Kelly.