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Nobel Peace Prize to Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad

for their efforts in the fight against war rapes

The Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad "for their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict". The announcement has been given by the Norwegian Nobel Committee, explaining that both the winners have made an essential contribution to bring attention to war crimes.

Mukwege has dedicated his life to help and defend women victims of violence and abuse in Congo. Murad, yazidi, has instead witnessed to the world the drama of her people.

Denis Mukwege has dedicated his life to serving women in Congo. The man has in fact created a structure - the Panzi Hospital of Bukavu - to nurse and aid the victims of “rape as a weapon of war”, despite threats from armed groups in the country. The child of a Pentecostal pastor, Denis decided to become a doctor when, accompanying his father during visits to the ills of the community, he noticed that hospital patients received insufficient care and often died after childbirth. 

In 1998, during the war in Congo, Mukwege started the construction of a hospital for women victims of violence. Mukwege - who today is world’s leading expert in the internal reconstruction of female genitalia after rape - and his team have operated on more than 20 thousand women, working 18 hours a day during which they complete 10 surgeries. The courage of the surgeon has, furthermore, allowed these women to start new lives. Next to the hospital created by Denis, a secure structure was constructed where patients and their children can seek refuge. The women learn how to sew, weave, and other jobs, in order to become independent and restart their lives. In 2012 the surgeon brought an important discourse to the General Assembly of the United Nations, to address the problem of violence as a weapon of war and to condemn the impunity of those guilty of mass rapes in Congo. A couple months later, four armed men attacked the Doctor’s house, taking his children hostage and waiting for Mukwege to return home from the hospital. Mukwege succeeded in saving his family and home, but the incident left one of his security guards dead. After the homicide, the doctor left the country and went into exile with his family in Europe. In January 2013, aware of the importance of his presence at Panzi Hospital, Denis decided to return to Congo, even though him and his team continued to receive threats. The people gave him a special reception, accompanying him from the airport to Bukavu. His patients even saved money from selling pineapples and onions to symbolically pay for his ticket of return. For his commitment and his courage Denis Mukwege has received much recognition, including the Prize of Human Rights from the United Nations in 2008, and the Sakharov Prize for the Freedom of Thought in 2014, awarded each year by the European Parliament to individuals or associations that have distinguished themselves in the defense of human rights.

Nadia Murad, who we met in Milan in 2016, is one of the Yazidi women abducted by the Islamic State. She spent three months in the hands of her torturers, suffering collective and individual violence and witnessing the killing of her mother - too old to become a sex slave - and six of her brothers. In November 2014, she managed to escape with the help of a family that took her secretly outside the area controlled by ISIS. Since then, her voice has also reached the UN to denounce the genocide  whose her people are victims of. "They took us to Mosul with over 150 other Yazidi families - said Nadia in front of the Security Council. In one building there were women and children who were exchanged as if they were gifts. The man who took me asked me to change religion. I refused. Then he asked for my hand to marry me. That night he beat me. He asked me to take off my clothes. He took me to a room with the guards, and they committed their crime until I fainted. I implore you, eliminate Daesh [ISIS] completely". 

"Once I escaped, I felt it was my duty to tell the world about the brutality of the Islamic State. Yazidi women hoped that, by telling our experiences of extermination, rape and enslavement, we would bring genocide into the spotlight of the world, but now what we really need are concrete actions to achieve justice and allow our community to return at home ". "We are facing crimes against humanity, which should no longer take place in the 21st century - Nadia told us -. The corpses of my brothers, of my relatives, of those killed, can not remain exposed to the air without being buried. The church bells of our cities must not stop. Man can not be a commodity, he can not be deprived of his freedom". For her fundamental testimony, Nadia has won several awards, including the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought in 2016.

5 October 2018

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Civil courage

the strength of human dignity

Genocide cases and extreme circumstances of human rights violations, persecutions and deprivation of freedom have occurred all over the world. Those who find the courage to oppose, safeguard their own moral integrity, assessing the duty of truth, reporting the crimes against humanity and struggling to defend the founding value of civil coexistence can be defined as Righteous peopleJournalists like Sihem Bensedrine in Tunisia and writers like Gao Xingjian in China, diplomats like Enrico Calamai in Argentina and artists like Sunila Abeysekera in Sri Lanka, students like Bo Kyi in Burma and (union) activists or politicians like Maria Elena Moyano in Peru, Guillermo Chen in Guatemala, Fannie Lou Hamer in the USA, scientists, lawyers, doctors, intellectuals like Vassili Nesterenko in Belarus, Sylvie Maunga Mbanga in Congo, Halima Bashir in Darfur, Hashem Aghajari in Iran. Not to forget the prominent female figures advocating the rights of women trampled on in many world areas, like Betty Makoni in Zimbawe, Hawa Aden Mohamed in Somalia,  Khalida Toumi Messaoudi in Algeria,  Lydia Chaco in Mexico.
As well as the best-known advocates of human and civil rights like Nelson Mandela in South Africa, Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma, Anna Politkovskaja in Russia, Orhan Pamuk in Turkey, Natasha Kandic in Serbia and Svetlana Broz in Bosnia, Ayaan Hirsi Ali from Somalia, the mothers of Plaza de Mayo in Argentina. 

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