2018’s Nobel Peace Prize winners have spent their careers working in the Middle East and Africa.
The prestigious 2018 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to two individuals whose activism has called for the ending of mass rape as a strategy during war: Nadia Murad and Denis Mukwege. Murad, a survivor of sexual slavery from the Islamic State (IS), uses her story as a call to justice for all women who have endured sexual violence or other mass atrocities. Mukwege, a Congolese gynecological doctor, has seen and helped a countless number of women who suffered violence in his home country of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Murad has spoken fearlessly in her campaign for justice against IS and its brutalization of women. In her New York Times bestselling novel “The Last Girl,” Murad chronicles her time in captivity and subsequent escape. She is represented by Amal Clooney, a human rights lawyer, and together they are working to persecute IS soldiers. Murad is 24, making her the second youngest Peace Prize winner and the 17th woman to receive the award.
Prior to his win, Mukwege had often been mentioned in speculations for the Nobel Peace Prize. His work in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has led him to be known as “The man who mends women’s bodies,” with a majority of his patients being victims of sexual violence. After delivering an incendiary speech on the world’s neglect of the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo to the United Nations, Mukwege suffered an assassination attempt in October of 2012 that killed his bodyguard and close friend Joseph Bizimana. Mukwege escaped to Europe but returned to his clinic in 2013, despite the safety concerns.
On the Nobel Prize website, they recognize the work that both winners have done for survivors of sexual violence, stating, “Each of them in their own way has helped to give greater visibility to wartime sexual violence, so that the perpetrators can be held accountable for their actions.” By honoring these individuals, the Norwegian Nobel Committee has chosen to shine a spotlight on the sexual violence faced by women — an often overlooked issue.
The Nobel Prize winners each year are so closely guarded that winners do not know they have even been nominated until they are announced. Both winners this year did not know that they had won until after the world did, as the news was broken online.
Mukwege, in a statement to reporters from his hospital in Bukavu, dedicated the award to “women of all countries bruised by conflict and facing everyday violence.” Murad, in her first conference, had a call to action for those in the room: “We must work together to put an end to genocide, hold accountable those who commit these crimes and achieve justice for the victims.”