This morning, Congolese doctor Denis Mukwege and Yazidi activist and genocide survivor Nadia Murad were awarded the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war. Dr. Mukwege was in the middle of his second operation of the day when he received news of this honor: "It was when I was operating and I heard people start to cry and it was so, so surprising," he said. "I can see in the face of many women how they are happy to be recognized and this is really so touching."
Dr. Mukwege was a speaker at the 2016 Oslo Freedom Forum, where he delivered a powerful talk about the decades he has spent treating rape victims in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). You can watch a video of his presentation here. In 1999, Dr. Mukwege founded the Panzi Hospital to provide medical care as well as legal and psychosocial services for its patients. Since then, he and his staff have treated more than 50,000 victims of sexual violence and the hospital now cares for more than 3,500 women a year. The eastern part of the DRC has been wracked by conflict for more than two decades. The presence of rival militias fighting for control of the land and its precious resources has resulted in the indiscriminate rape of the region’s women, leading a top UN official to label the DRC “the rape capital of the world.” This morning, Dr. Mukwege dedicated his prize to “women of all countries bruised by conflict and facing everyday violence.”
In today’s announcement, Norwegian Nobel Committee Chairwoman Berit Reiss-Andersen highlighted "the importance of Dr. Mukwege’s enduring, dedicated and selfless efforts in this field, [which] cannot be overstated." She called Dr. Mukwege "the foremost, most unifying symbol, both nationally and internationally, of the struggle to end sexual violence in war and armed conflicts."
For the Human Rights Foundation (HRF), it is significant that the Norwegian Nobel Committee has turned the world’s attention to the importance of protecting women in conflict zones. “By honoring Dr. Mukwege and Ms. Murad, who have dedicated their lives to save survivors of sexual violence, the Committee has sent a clear message to the women around the world who are being used as weapons of war that they deserve protection of their fundamental human rights,” said Céline Assaf Boustani, international legal associate at HRF.
HRF is proud to support the work of brave individuals who put themselves at risk in order to advocate on behalf of victims of violent conflict. Each year, the Oslo Freedom Forum unites leaders from academia, advocacy, business, media, politics, social entrepreneurship, and technology to address the world’s most challenging humanitarian issues. Our objectives are to expose unfree and closed societies, establish a human rights axis for journalists, inspire action through the exchange of ideas, build a vibrant international community, raise human rights to the top of the world agenda, spotlight the work of activists and innovators, and network participants with allies and supporters.
The 2019 Oslo Freedom Forum will take place from May 27-29.