Nadia Murad and Dr. Denis Mikwege

Indifference to Sexual Violence Eats Away at Us All, Say Nobel Pair


OSLO, Norway (The Guardian) — The Nobel laureates Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad have called on the world to protect victims of wartime sexual violence as they angrily criticized indifference to the plight of women and children in conflict in their peace prize acceptance speeches.

The gold medals were presented to Mukwege, a Congolese gynecologist who has spent his career treating tens of thousands of rape survivors, and Murad, a Yazidi woman from Iraq who was kidnapped and kept as a slave by an Isis judge, raped and beaten every day, before she escaped and became a human rights campaigner.

Both laureates said on Monday, December 10, the reason atrocities such as those they had witnessed still occurred in the 21st century was because perpetrators were not brought to justice.

Women in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have been prey to systematic rape since 1998, perpetrated mainly by the rebel groups that have kept the east in a permanent state of instability.

After Mukwege was named the joint winner of the prize in October, he called on the DRC’s “illegal and illegitimate” government to quit, accusing it of perpetuating the violence and failing to protect women. Elections are set to be held later this month.

Norway’s Crown Princess Mette-Marit, seated with her husband, Crown Prince Haakon, wipes away tears as she listens to Nadia Murad speak at the ceremony.

In his acceptance speech, Mukwege emphasized that the continuing violence was caused by “the absence of the rule of law, the collapse of traditional values and the reign of impunity, particularly for those in power,” all of which were linked to “gross mismanagement” by the government.

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“My country is being systematically looted with the complicity of people claiming to be our leaders,” he said. “Looted for their power, their wealth and their glory. Looted at the expense of millions of innocent men, women and children abandoned in extreme poverty. While the profits from our minerals end up in the pockets of a predatory oligarchy.”

He spoke of the “indifference which is eating away at our societies,” pointing out that the root cause of violence, war and poverty in the DRC is because of its natural wealth and calling on consumers to insist that their smartphones, jewelry, cars and gadgets, often made with Congolese minerals, were not made at a terrible human cost.

“Turning a blind eye to this tragedy is being complicit. It’s not just perpetrators of violence who are responsible for their crimes, it is also those who choose to look the other way.”

It is not just consumers, rebels and Congolese officials who bear responsibility for the situation, he said. “The Congolese people have been humiliated, abused and massacred for more than two decades in plain sight of the international community.”

Murad, too, condemned the inaction of the international community, which she said did nothing to deter or stop the genocide that Islamic State has committed against Yazidis in Syria and Iraq, saying her people had received sympathy but not justice and protection.

“So far, the perpetrators of the crimes which led to this genocide have not been brought to justice. I do not seek more sympathy; I want to translate those feelings into actions on the ground,” she said. “The international community must be committed to providing asylum and immigration opportunities to those who have become victims of this genocide.”

More than 6,500 Yazidi women and girls have been kidnapped, raped, bought and sold, and Murad pointed out that the fate of 3,000 women and children was still unknown.

She added: “Thank you very much for this honor, but the fact remains that the only prize in the world that can restore our dignity is justice and the prosecution of criminals.”


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