Nobel peace prize shines light on rape in conflict

Congolese doctor Denis Mukwege and Yazidi activist Nadia Murad have come to represent the struggle against a global scourge that goes well beyond any single conflict. (AFP)
Updated 10 December 2018
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Nobel peace prize shines light on rape in conflict

  • The Norwegian Nobel Committee in October said the prize was for “for their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict”
  • The laureates have said they hope the Nobel will raise awareness of sexual violence and make it harder for the world to ignore it

OSLO: Congolese doctor Denis Mukwege and Yazidi activist Nadia Murad, a Daesh sex slave survivor, will be presented with the Nobel Peace Prize Monday, as they challenge the world to combat rape as a weapon of war.
Mukwege, dubbed “Doctor Miracle” for his work helping victims of sexual violence, and Murad, who has turned her experience into powerful advocacy for her Yazidi people, will receive the prize at a ceremony in Oslo.
The Norwegian Nobel Committee in October said the prize was for “for their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict.”
The laureates, who have dedicated their award to rape victims across the world, have said they hope the Nobel will raise awareness of sexual violence and make it harder for the world to ignore it.
“We cannot say that we didn’t act because we didn’t know. Now everyone knows. And I think now the international community has a responsibility to act,” Mukwege told reporters at a news conference on Sunday.
The surgeon has spent 20 years treating the wounds and emotional trauma inflicted on women in the DR Congo’s war-torn east.
“What we see during armed conflicts is that women’s bodies become battlefields and this cannot be acceptable,” he said.
Fellow laureate Murad has become a tireless campaigner for the rights of Yazidis since surviving the horrors of captivity under the Daesh group in Iraq and Syria where they targeted her Kurdish-speaking community.
Captured in 2014, she suffered forced marriage, beatings and gang-rape before she was able to escape.
She said the Nobel was “a sign” for the thousands of women still held by militants.
“This prize, one prize cannot remove all the violence and all the attacks on pregnant women, on children, on women and give them justice,” Murad said on Sunday.
But she said she hoped it would “open doors so that we can approach more governments,” to bring the perpetrators to court and “so that we can find a solution and actually stop what is happening.”

The co-laureates have come to represent the struggle against a global scourge that goes well beyond any single conflict.
“Each of them in their own way has helped to give greater visibility to war-time sexual violence, so that the perpetrators can be held accountable for their actions,” said Nobel committee chairwoman Berit Reiss-Andersen, when the award was announced in October.
Mukwege has treated tens of thousands of victims — women, children and even babies just a few months old — at Panzi hospital which he founded in 1999 in DR Congo’s South Kivu.
Murad, now UN ambassador for victims of human trafficking, was among thousands of Yazidi women and girls who were abducted, raped and brutalized by militants during their assault in 2014.
Older women and men faced summary execution during the Daesh assault, which the United Nations has described as a possible genocide. Murad’s mother and six of her brothers were killed.
A UN team authorized to investigate the massacre of the Yazidi minority is due to finally start fieldwork in Iraq next year.
Murad said “steps toward justice” had given her hope.
But she stressed that “not a single Daesh terrorist” has appeared in court, adding “this injustice will continue in this world if it is not dealt with now.”
The Nobel Peace Prize — a gold medal, diploma and nine million Swedish Krona (880,000 euros, $1 million) — will be officially presented in a ceremony at Oslo City Hall at 1200 GMT.


US Senator Graham urges Trump to meet Pakistan PM Khan

Updated 6 min 21 sec ago
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US Senator Graham urges Trump to meet Pakistan PM Khan

  • US and Pakistan should have “strategic engagement”, not transactional relationship
  • The American senator sees a “unique opportunity” to change diplomatic direction of US-Pakistan ties

ISLAMABAD:  US Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said on Sunday President Donald Trump should meet Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan as soon as possible to reset long-difficult US relations with Pakistan and push for a peaceful settlement in Afghanistan.

The comments, which add to growing signs of improved relations between Islamabad and Washington, come amid efforts to press on with talks between the Taliban and the United States aimed at an agreement to end 17 years of war in Afghanistan.

"I've seen things change here and all in a positive direction," Graham, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee who has generally been a staunch supporter of Trump, told a news conference in Islamabad.

He said a meeting with Khan, who has declared strong support for a peace agreement in Afghanistan, would leave Trump "far more enthusiastic about the region than he is today".

"With Prime Minister Khan we have a unique opportunity to change our relationship," he said. A previously transactional relationship, based on rewards for services rendered, should be replaced by "strategic engagement", including a free trade agreement, he said.

US relations with Pakistan have long been dogged by suspicions that elements in the Pakistani establishment were aiding the Taliban, a charge Islamabad strongly denies. However, relations have appeared to improve in recent months amid efforts to push the Taliban towards a peace deal.

Trump, who has in the past argued for the United States to withdraw from Afghanistan, has made it clear he wants to see a peace accord reached rapidly although the Taliban have so far refused to talk directly with the Afghan government.

Graham's trip to Pakistan coincided with a visit by Zalmay Khalilzad, the US special envoy for peace in Afghanistan, and top military commanders including General Joseph Votel, commander of US Central Command.

Khalilzad left Islamabad without announcing a new date for talks with Taliban representatives, who have refused further meetings until the US side agrees to discuss a timetable for withdrawing its forces.

The uncertainty has been increased by reports that Trump is prepared to order more than 5,000 US troops out of Afghanistan, a move that would represent a sharp change in course from Washington's previous policy of stepping up military action against the Taliban.

With Afghan forces suffering thousands of casualties a year and struggling to hold back the Taliban insurgency, the reports have caused alarm in Kabul, prompting many close to the government to question the US commitment to Afghanistan.

Asked whether there had been confusion over the US message, Graham, who has called for a Senate hearing on Trump's plans to withdraw US troops from Syria and Afghanistan, said "without a doubt" but added that he did not believe Washington would stand by and allow a Taliban victory.

"The world's not going to let the Taliban take Afghanistan over by force of arms. That would be unconscionable," he told Reuters. "Any president who let that happen would go down in history very poorly."