Nobel Peace Prize winners urge global action against rape as a weapon of war

Nobel Peace Prize laureates Nadia Murad and Dr. Denis Mukwege at the award ceremony Monday in Oslo.
(Tobias Schwarz / AFP/Getty Images)

The Congolese doctor who shares this year’s Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to end the use of rape and sexual violence as weapons of war called Monday for strong international action against the abuse, including reparations for victims.

Dr. Denis Mukwege, founder of a hospital in Democratic Republic of Congo that has treated tens of thousands of victims of the country’s conflicts for two decades, and Iraqi activist Nadia Murad received the prize at a ceremony in the Norwegian capital, Oslo. They split the $1-million prize amount.

In an address interrupted by frequent applause, Mukwege criticized the international community for allowing Congolese to be “humiliated, abused and massacred for more than two decades in plain sight.”


“I insist on reparations, measures that give survivors compensation and satisfaction and enable them to start a new life,” he said. “I call on states to support the initiative to create a global fund for reparations for victims of sexual violence in armed conflicts.”

He said countries should take a stand against “leaders who have tolerated, or worse, used sexual violence to take power.... This red line would consist of imposing economic and political sanctions on these leaders and taking them to court.”

Dozens of armed groups in Congo profit from mining the country’s trillions of dollars’ worth of mineral resources, many of which are crucial to popular electronic products such as smartphones.

“As consumers, let us at least insist that these products are manufactured with respect for human dignity. Turning a blind eye to this tragedy is being complicit,” Mukwege said. An outspoken critic of Congo’s government, he added: “My country is being systematically looted with the complicity of people claiming to be our leaders.”

Young girls at the prime of life are sold, bought, held captive and raped every day. It is inconceivable... the world is not mobilized to liberate these girls.

— Iraqi activist Nadia Murad

Murad, a member of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, was kidnapped and sexually abused by Islamic State militants in 2014. She became an activist after escaping and finding refuge in Germany.

She said she wants world leaders to translate sympathy for victims into action against the abusers.

“The fact remains that the only prize in the world that can restore our dignity is justice and the prosecution of criminals,” Murad said.

“Young girls at the prime of life are sold, bought, held captive and raped every day. It is inconceivable that the conscience of the leaders of 195 countries around the world is not mobilized to liberate these girls,” she said.

“What if they were a commercial deal, an oil field or a shipment of weapons? Most certainly, no efforts would be spared to liberate them,” she said.

Berit Reiss-Andersen, head of the Norwegian Nobel Committee that chooses the peace laureates, also said action was necessary.

“This award obligates Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad to continue their vital work. But the award obligates us to stand side by side with them in the struggle to end wartime sexual violence,” she said.

In northern Iraq, Murad’s sister and brother who live in a camp for displaced Yazidi people in Dohuk, expressed their happiness for their sibling’s Nobel Prize.

“We are very happy, because on this date, Daesh was defeated in Iraq, on the same day Nadia is receiving her award,” her sister Khayriya Murad told the Associated Press, using the Arabic acronym for Islamic State. She spoke at the family’s caravan, where a photo of Nadia hung on the wall, and she received congratulations from friends and camp staff.

“This is like a tumor in the chest of Daesh,” Khayriya Murad said. “We are very glad, and very proud.”

The winners of the medicine, physics, chemistry and economics Nobels received their awards Monday in Stockholm and were to make brief comments at a later banquet. No winner of the literature prize was named this year.