Two humanitarian heroes win Nobel Prize

By Sajjad Malik
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, December 13, 2018
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Nobel prize laureates Congolese gynecologist Denis Mukwege (R) and Iraqi Yazidi-Kurdish human rights activist Nadia Murad greet the crowd from the balcony of the Nobel suite in Oslo downtown, Norway, on December 10, 2018. [Photo/VCG]

This year's Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Yazidi rape victim Nadia Murad and Congolese gynecologist Denis Mukwege. Both of them received the medals and prize money in a special ceremony on Monday in Oslo. There can hardly be a better time to honor people who have stood up against the evil of sexual violence, including harassment.

Murad is a survivor of sexual slavery she endured in the captivity of Islamic State militants in Iraq. She was kidnapped by the rebels from her village, Kojo, in 2014 and after going through unimaginable hell, she was able to escape. After surviving, she is now waging a struggle to highlight the plight of women suffering from sexual violence. 

In her acceptance speech, she made an emotional plea for Yazidi women who are still missing. It is estimated that about 3,000 of them are still in the custody of militants. Murad also wants help for the approximately 300,000 Yazidi refugees to return peacefully to native Sinjar area of Iraq.   

But her objective is larger as she wants to help women all over the world. That is why she has called for developing "a new roadmap to protect women and children and to eradicate sexual abuses." It is noble cause and should be supported. 

Meanwhile, Mukwege runs the Panzi hospital in the war-torn eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo, where reportedly he has treated tens of thousands of people who were victims of sexual violence. He is also advocating for more consolidated action to stop wars that create an atmosphere for rampant violence. 

"If there is a war to be waged, it is the war against the indifference which is eating away at our societies," he said in his speech, adding: "It is not just perpetrators of violence who are responsible for their crimes, it is also those who choose to look the other way."

While Murad has demanded a plan of action to protect vulnerable groups from sexual violence, Mukwege has called for a global fund to compensate the victims. Moreover, he has asked for economic and political sanctions against those responsible and for those promoting the violence.

Violence is bad in all its forms and manifestations but the worst of its kind is to inflict psychological wounds by dishonoring people. Rape and sexual exploitation leaves deep scars on the heart and mind of the sufferers. 

Women have been the worst victims of sexual excesses during wars since time immemorial. Looking at their plight even today, it appears as if nothing has changed for them over the centuries. They were enslaved and their dignity violated by invaders in ancient times and modern masses of warriors often repeat the same. 

War is sometimes condoned as a necessary evil. But it is subjected to certain laws and obligations. For example, it is law that those not carrying arms, elderly, children, sick and women should be spared. But in case of women, the law is breached frequently. 

The latest two Nobel laureates are linked with two conflicts. It means that it is the war that creates the environment for violation of women rights, including subjecting them to sexual abuses. Hence, conflict and violation of rights are closely linked, and in order to effectively address one, we have to address the other also. 

Efforts should be made to abolish wars as well as address the plight of vulnerable groups like women. Steps taken so far in that direction have not been successful. Hundreds and thousands of people have been killed so far in the 21st century.  

There are numerous places where societies are torn apart by conflicts, including Iraq and Congo. It shows that despite progress of human civilization and vigorous campaigns for basic human rights, progress has been slow to civilize behavior and attitudes. 

Murad and Mukwege not only represent the war-torn zones but also are symbols of hope to end conflicts. Murad has also pledged to give half of her share in the US$1million prize money to her "Nadia's Initiative," through which she has been trying to get states to recognize the killings of Yazidis as genocide and persuade the UNSC to probe war crimes by militants against them.

So far none of the rebels have been put on trial for crimes against humanity. All those who commit such crimes should be brought to justice. Additionally, those waging wars and perpetuating conflicts should also be made answerable. 

Sajjad Malik is a columnist with For more information please visit:

Opinion articles reflect the views of their authors, not necessarily those of

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