In a move that may bring hope to sexual violence sufferers across the world, this year’s Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to two anti-rape activists. Yazidi campaigner Nadia Murad and Denis Mukwege, a doctor from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, were jointly given the prestigious title over the weekend by the Nobel committee.
The pair were awarded the prize “for their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict”, the Norwegian organization revealed in a statement. Mukwege is a gynaecologist who has treated thousands of rape survivors in his native country, while Murad has fiercely campaigned to free the Yazidi people from the clutches of the Islamic State. The 25-year-old was kidnapped four years ago by militants, and sold into sex slavery before making her escape. When Islamic State arrived in her village in 2014, Murad also lost her mother and six brothers amid the violence.
The tireless activist has shared her story of genocide and sexual violence in a bid to bring justice to Yazidi refugees and help build war crime cases against Islamic State. She is represented by British-Lebanese human rights lawyer Amal Clooney, who said Murad’s win “sends a message that survivors of sexual violence must not be ignored, and that their abusers must be held to account”. “At a time when so many women’s voices are still silenced, Nadia’s has been heard around the world,” Clooney said in a statement, according to AP.
Murad also issued a statement following her win, revealing that she was “honored and humbled” by the accolade. “I share this award with Yazidis, Iraqis, Kurds, other persecuted minorities and all of the countless victims of sexual violence around the world,” the activist posted on her website. “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. Many Yazidis will look upon this prize and think of family members that were lost, are still unaccounted for, and of the 1,300 women and children, which remain in captivity. Like many minority groups, the Yazidis, have carried the weight of historical persecution. Women in particular have suffered greatly as they have been, and continue to be the victims of sexual violence.”
Murad also paid tribute to her late mother, as she urged for an end to the persecution of minorities. “We must work together with determination – to prove that genocidal campaigns will not only fail, but lead to accountability for the perpetrators and justice for the survivors,” she added. “We must remain committed to rebuilding communities ravaged by genocide. Survivors deserve a safe and secure pathway home or safe passage elsewhere. We must support efforts to focus on humanity, and overcome political and cultural divisions. We must not only imagine a better future for women, children and persecuted minorities, we must work consistently to make it happen – prioritizing humanity, not war.”
With her win, Murad has become the first Iraqi to win the Nobel Peace Prize, and is also the first UN goodwill ambassador for survivors of human trafficking.