Nobel laureates urge world to help victims of rape in conflict

Murad implored the global community to help free hundreds of women and girls still held by Daesh. (AFP)
Updated 11 December 2018
0

Nobel laureates urge world to help victims of rape in conflict

  • Global community must protect Yazidis, says Nadia Murad
  • In an emotional ceremony, which saw the laureates cheered and given standing ovations, Mukwege and Murad called on the world to do more

OSLO: Nobel laureates Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad have called on the world to protect victims of wartime sexual violence in their Peace Prize acceptance speeches on Monday, slamming indifference to the plight of women and children in conflict.

Congolese gynecologist Mukwege, whose work has made him a global expert on rape in conflict, and Yazidi activist Murad, a survivor of Daesh sexual slavery, both said victims were sometimes valued less than commercial interests.

In an emotional ceremony, which saw the laureates cheered and given standing ovations, Mukwege and Murad called on the world to do more.

“If there is a war to be waged, it is the war against the indifference which is eating away at our societies,” Mukwege said at the ceremony in Oslo.

His Panzi Hospital in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s war-torn east has treated the wounds of tens of thousands of women and children for sexual assaults that have become a “new reality” in the country.

He said the violence “shames our common humanity.”

In her speech, Murad implored the global community to help free hundreds of women and girls still held by Daesh, saying the world must protect her people and other vulnerable communities.

“It is my view that all victims deserve a safe haven until justice is done for them,” she said, pausing briefly, seemingly overcome with emotion.

Nobel committee chairwoman Berit Reiss-Andersen said the pair had received the Peace Prize “for their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict.” She described them as “two of the strongest voices in the world today.”

In a somber ceremony in Oslo City Hall, both smiled as they received the Peace Prize gold medal, diploma and the 9 million Swedish Krona ($1 million), which they will share.

Mukwege lay much of the blame for the horrific violence unleashed on civilians on those in power in his troubled country.

“For 20 years now, day after day, at Panzi Hospital, I have seen the harrowing consequences of the country’s gross mismanagement,” said the doctor, a critic of DR Congo President Joseph Kabila, who is set to be replaced in elections this month.

“Babies, girls, young women, mothers, grandmothers, and also men and boys, cruelly raped, often publicly and collectively.”

Mukwege said the trade in the country’s abundant natural resources helped fuel the violence while profits “end up in the pockets of a predatory oligarchy.”

“We love nice cars, jewelry and gadgets. I have a smartphone myself. These items contain minerals found in our country, often mined in inhuman conditions by young children, victims of intimidation and sexual violence,” he said.

“It’s not just perpetrators of violence who are responsible for their crimes, it is also those who choose to look the other way.”

He called for a global fund to provide reparation for victims and economic and political sanctions for those behind the violence.

Murad survived the horrors of captivity under the Daesh group in Iraq and Syria where they targeted her Kurdish-speaking community.

Older women and men faced summary execution during the Daesh assault, which the UN has described as a possible genocide.

Captured in 2014, Murad suffered beatings and gang-rape before she was able to escape.

In her Nobel acceptance address Monday, Murad said more than 6,500 women and girls from her community had been kidnapped, raped and traded “in the 21st century, in the age of globalization and human rights.”

The fate of some 3,000 women and girls is still unknown.

“Young girls at the prime of life are sold, bought, held captive and raped every day. It is inconceivable that the conscience of the leaders of 195 countries around the world is not mobilized to liberate these girls,” she said.

“What if they were a commercial deal, an oil field or a shipment of weapons? Most certainly, no efforts would be spared to liberate them.”

Murad, whose mother and six of her brothers were killed, said on Sunday that “steps toward justice” had given her some hope.

A UN team authorized to investigate the massacre of the Yazidi minority is due to finally start fieldwork in Iraq next year.

Murad has been supported in her campaign for justice for Yazidis by Lebanese-British lawyer and rights activist Amal Clooney, who was in the audience in Oslo.

No terrorist has yet faced trial over the atrocities against the Yazidis.

Murad said she was thankful for the Peace prize, but added: “The fact remains that the only prize in the world that can restore our dignity is justice and the prosecution of criminals.”


France’s Macron forced to curb his ambitions for Europe

Updated 19 May 2019
0

France’s Macron forced to curb his ambitions for Europe

  • His pro-Europe vision has collided with populists and national interests across the continent
  • In his country, his political vision has given rise to France’s raucous yellow vest uprising over his government’s pro-business policies

PARIS: French President Emmanuel Macron sees himself as Europe’s savior and next week’s European Parliament elections as a make-or-break moment for the beleaguered European Union.
But Macron is no longer the fresh-faced force who marched into a surprising presidential victory to the rousing EU anthem two years ago. His pro-Europe vision has collided with populists and national interests across the continent. And at home, his political vision has given rise to France’s raucous yellow vest uprising over his government’s pro-business policies.
Macron wanted the May 23-26 European Parliament elections to be the key moment that he could push his ambitions for a stronger Europe — but instead, nationalists and populists who criticized the 28-nation bloc could achieve unprecedented success.
They argue that EU leaders have failed to manage migration into the continent and remain out of touch with ordinary workers’ concerns.
“We have a crisis of the European Union. This is a matter of fact. Everywhere in Europe, when you look at the past five to six years, in our country but in a lot of countries, all the extremes, extreme-rights, are increasing,” Macron said Thursday, making an unexpected appeal for European unity on the sidelines of a technology trade show.
“On currency, on digital, on climate action, we need more Europe,” he said. “I want the EU to be more protective of our borders regarding migration, terrorism and so on, but I think if you fragment Europe, there is no chance you have a stronger Europe.”
In person, the 41-year-old Macron comes across as strikingly, sincerely European. A political centrist, he’s at ease quoting Greek playwrights, German thinkers or British economists. France’s youngest president grew up with the EU and has been using the shared European euro currency his whole adult life, and sees it as Europe’s only chance to stay in the global economic game.
Macron has already visited 20 of the EU’s 28 countries in his two years in office, and while he acknowledges the EU’s problems, he wants to fix the bloc — not disassemble it.
Macron won the 2017 presidential election over France’s far-right, anti-immigration party leader Marine Le Pen on a pledge to make Europe stronger to face global competition against the Unites States and China. Since then, he’s had to make compromises with other EU leaders — and clashed with some nations where populist parties govern, from Poland to neighboring Italy.
Four months after his election, Macron outlined his vision for Europe in a sweeping speech at Paris’ Sorbonne university, calling for a joint EU budget, shared military forces and harmonized taxes.
But with Brexit looming and nationalism rising, Macron has had to reconsider his ambitions. He called his political tactics with other EU leaders a “productive confrontation.”
“In Europe, what is expected from France is to clearly say what it wants, its goals, its ambitions, and then be able to build a compromise with Germany to move forward” with other European countries, Macron said last week.
Macron stressed that despite her initial reluctance, German Chancellor Angela Merkel agreed last year to create a eurozone budget they hope will boost investment and provide a safety mechanism for the 19 nations using the euro currency.
In March, Macron sought to draw support for a Europe of “freedom, protection and progress” with a written call to voters in 28 countries to reject nationalist parties that “offer nothing.”
And he proposed to define a roadmap for the EU by the end of this year in a discussion with all member nations and a panel of European citizens.
“There will be disagreement, but is it better to have a static Europe or a Europe that advances, sometimes at different paces, and that is open to all?” he asked.
France and Germany are the two heavyweights in Europe, and Macron can also count on cooperation from pro-European governments of Belgium, The Netherlands, Spain, Portugal and others.
He has made a point, however, of not yet visiting Hungary or Poland, two nations led by populist leaders whom Macron accused last year of “lying” to their people about the EU.
France has also been entangled in a serious diplomatic crisis with Italy over migration into Europe. Italy’s anti-migrant Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has repeatedly criticized Macron and is backing his rival Le Pen’s National Rally party in the election this week that aims to fill the European parliament’s 751 seats.
Macron has little chance to repeat Europe-wide what he did in France: rip up the political map by building a powerful centrist movement that weakened the traditional left and right.
The campaign for Macron’s Republic on the Move party is being led by former European Affairs Minister Nathalie Loiseau under a banner called “Renaissance.” The party wants to associate with the pro-market ALDE alliance to create new centrist group at the European Parliament.
But across the continent, the centrists are not expected to come out remotely on top but rank third or even lower behind the parliament’s traditional two biggest groups, the right-wing European People’s Party and the left-wing Socialists and Democrats group.
Even at home, Macron is far from certain of being able to claim victory in the European vote. Polls suggest his party will be among France’s top two vote-getters in the election, which takes place in France on May 26.
But its main rival, the far-right National Rally party, is determined to take revenge on Macron beating Le Pen so decisively in 2017.
Macron’s political opponents across the spectrum are calling on French voters to seize the European vote to reject his government’s policies.
While he won 64% of the presidential vote in 2017, French polls show that Macron’s popularity has been around half that for the past year.
It reached record lows when France’s yellow vest movement broke out last fall, demanding relief from high taxes and stagnant wages for French workers, then slightly rose as extensive violence during yellow vest protests, especially in Paris, dampened support for the movement’s cause.
Still, the yellow vests are not going away. New protests against Macron and his government are planned for the EU election day.