Two of the recent Nobel Prize winners have something powerful in common: their value of survivor stories. Both Dr. Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad have sought to prove to the world that the stories of sexual violence survivors matter.
Mukwege is a gynecologist who opened a hospital in the Republic of Congo. He has treated thousands of rape survivors who have suffered because of warring militias. Murad is an Iraqi Yazidi human rights activist who experienced enslavement at the hands of Islamic State militants.
Both Mukwege and Murad are speaking out about the terrifying realities of sexual violence around the world. Instead of seeking mere acknowledgement of the issue, they want proper justice served to those who have committed sexual crimes.
For Murad, the issue of sexual violence is extremely personal. While enslaved, she experienced kidnapping, torture, and rape while her mother and six brothers were murdered. Her memoir detailing the experience, Last Girl: My Story of Captivity, and My Fight Against the Islamic State, became a New York Times best seller in 2017 and introduced the struggle of Yizidi women to many people for the first time.
“It was genocide, pure and simple. I was not alone, and perhaps I was a lucky one,” she stated in a speech to the United Nations.
Murad refused to remain silent after her escape, and now the Nobel Peace Prize recipient is using her platform to make a real change for women in the world.
“Persecution of minorities must end. Sexual violence against women must never be tolerated. We must remain committed to rebuilding communities ravaged by genocide… We must work together with determination—so that genocidal campaigns will not only fail, but lead to accountability for the perpetrators,” Murad stated upon the announcement of the Prize winners.
Mukwege, too, had faced incredible adversity prior to receiving the Nobel Peace Prize. Treating women who have experienced sexual violence has resulted in Mukwege receiving death threats and even assassination attempts. However, this did not stop him from serving the women in his community.
“This Nobel Prize reflects this recognition of suffering and the need for just reparations for female victims of rape and sexual violence in countries across the world and on all continents. I dedicate this Nobel Prize to women of all countries in the world, harmed by conflict and facing violence every day… To the survivors from all over the world, I would like to tell you that through this prize, the world is listening to you and refuses to remain indifferent. The world refuses to stand idly in the face of your suffering,” Mukwege stated.
Mukwege and Murad have given their voices to a horrifying issue that affects women globally. It is long overdue that perpetrators of sexual crimes receive punishment for their horrendous acts against women. Now, with two prominent figures sharing the importance of survivor stories, there is more hope than ever.
A statement by the Norwegian Nobel Committee sums it up best: “A more peaceful world can only be achieved if women and their fundamental rights and security are recognized and protected in war.”
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