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Photograph: Nadia Murad and Denis Mukwege NTB Scanpix/Reuters

Nobel peace prize winners launch fund for wartime rape survivors

Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad set $100m fundraising goal as they spearhead push to provide money, healthcare and education Global development is supported by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

by Liz Ford,  The Guardian, 31 Oct 2019

The Global Survivors Fund, established by Nadia Murad and Denis Mukwege, seen here at the Nobel Institute in Oslo, has received a €6m donation from France and €2m from the EU.

Nobel laureates Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad have launched a fund to provide reparations for survivors of wartime rape.

The Global Survivors Fund will provide tailored support to help people recover from the emotional and physical trauma they have experienced.

This could be in the form of financial compensation, support to access healthcare services or return to education, or assistance with getting somewhere to live.

The fund will also support governments to set up their own reparation schemes. The initiative, officially launched in New York on Wednesday, is expected to attract funding from donor governments and the private sector, with the aim of raising between $50m (£38m) and $100m by 2022.

The French president, Emmanuel Macron, has already committed €6m (£5m) to the fund, while the EU has pledged €2m.

Germany provided about €200,000 “seed” money to help establish the fund, and the UK, Japan, South Korea and Norway are understood to be exploring ways to support it.

Esther Dingemans, director of the Mukwege Foundation, said the aim of the fund was to provide restorative justice for survivors. “What has really been missing is recognition of the harm done to them, which is extremely important, and prevention of stigma,” she said.

Mukwege, a surgeon whose Panzi hospital in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has helped tens of thousands of people who survived sexual violence perpetrated by armed forces, said in advance of the launch: “The importance of establishing this fund for survivors of conflict-related sexual violence cannot be overstated. We have been advocating such an initiative for many years. Seeing it come to fruition is a huge step forwards for humanity.”

Murad, a Yazidi woman who became a human rights campaigner after escaping enslavement by Isis, added: “Reparations are a step toward restoring dignity to survivors who often do not have any means to seek justice for the pain and suffering they have endured. A global fund is an innovative solution to providing survivors with a path towards healing, and it signals that our collective conscience acts in the name of humanity.”

Mukwege and Murad jointly received the Nobel peace prize last year. The creation of the fund was included in a UN security council resolution to combat rape in conflict that was passed in April, after the US successfully lobbied members to remove key language related to women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights.

On Tuesday, the security council passed another resolution, introduced by South Africa. It is the 10th such resolution passed since 2000 that seeks to address women’s specific experiences of conflict, and press for their involvement in peace negotiations and post-conflict reconstruction.

The new resolution called for the full implementation of commitments made by members almost two decades ago.

But it failed to mention sexual and reproductive health and rights, and was criticised by Karen Pierce, the UK ambassador to the UN, for being weak in scope. “We believe that the resolution would have broken new ground if it had included explicit language on women human rights defenders and their protection and their security,” Pierce told the security council.

“The work of women human rights defenders is essential to the functioning of democracy and the maintenance and achievement of peace.”

She also criticised the failure to recognise the central role of civil society in leading efforts for change, and emphasised that full implementation needed to include sexual and reproductive health services.

“I know that not all member states agree with this but from the perspective of the United Kingdom, [sexual and reproductive health and rights] and their services are a vital part of public services for women in all countries, and a vital part of ensuring that women can play a truly equal role in the building of their countries,” she said.

The UK had voted for the April resolution, despite the exclusion of sexual and reproductive health and rights.

The executive director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, told the security council: “The loud and common message is: progress is too slow, political will is not strong enough, and pushback against the needs and interests of women is threatening the progress we have made and pushing further away those who need the resolve and support most.”

Last week, more than 400 civil society groups across 94 countries signed an open letter calling on UN member states to recommit to promises made in 2000.

“As non-governmental organisations dedicated to gender equality and women’s rights, we firmly believe that the feminist principle of women’s agency remains at the heart of the WPS agenda and that we cannot achieve sustainable peace without women’s full, equal and meaningful participation in all levels of decision-making,” read the letter.

“However, nearly 20 years since the adoption of resolution 1325 [passed in 2000], despite the fact that conflicts disproportionately impact the health, safety, and the human rights of women and girls, they remain shut out of decision-making processes that determine their future.”

In 'Know My Name,' Chanel Miller Takes Back The Humanity She Was Denied
Miller, known for years only as Emily Doe in the Stanford sexual assault case, has written a memoir that lays bare the complicated truths about survivorhood.
By Emma Gray, HuffPost US, Sept 30, 2019

Chanel Miller's new memoir, "Know My Name," is a revelation.

“I introduce myself here, because in the story I’m about to tell, I begin with no name or identity.”

So writes Chanel Miller on Page 2 of her memoir, “Know My Name.” Chanel Miller — it feels important to write her full name more than once because the public spent years talking about her without it — went to a party at Stanford University in 2015 and ended up in a hospital, unsure how she had gotten there. She would soon learn, by way of cryptic statements by law enforcement and, eventually, local news coverage, that she had been sexually assaulted behind a dumpster while unconscious by a 20-year-old Stanford student named Brock Turner.

You probably know the vague outlines of the story from there: Turner was found guilty of multiple felonies, including assault with intent to rape an intoxicated woman. He was sentenced by Judge Aaron Persky to six months in county jail, of which he would serve three. His victim, known then only as Emily Doe, wrote a searing victim impact statement, which was published on BuzzFeed and read on live TV, on the floor of Congress and by millions online. Persky was recalled. Turner was released from jail. Laws were changed.

What you are less likely to have is a clear picture of Miller: her background in art, the way that writing runs in her family, her loving sister, the way she read all of the comments on the news coverage of her assault, her rage, her desire, her potential. With “Know My Name,” Miller gets to reclaim her humanity.

There is an instinct to lionize survivors of sexual assault who are brave enough to share their stories, to put their experiences up on a pedestal for the edification of the larger culture. That instinct makes sense. In a culture that makes it nearly impossible for survivors to get justice or even be believed, we want to find meaning in tragedy made public. But to turn a survivor into a symbol, a lesson, a one-dimensional inspirational quote, is to flatten them and deprive them of their humanity. It is a particular cruelty to be defined by the worst thing that ever happened to you, and to exist in the public sphere only in relation to it. This is one of many injustices that Miller’s memoir seeks to right.

Chanel Miller just wants what was always afforded to Brock Turner: to be viewed as a human being.

In our collective memories, we like to freeze in time women who become publicly identified victims, as though they were born only as their alleged assault was enacted and ceased to exist as soon as their stories stopped being front-page news. Christine Blasey Ford did not stop existing after Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed to the Supreme Court, and her story mattered before he entered her life. Her story did not stop being written, her wounds were not healed, her complexities were not diminished. The same goes for Andrea Constand and Aly Raisman and Emma Sulkowicz and Kyle Stephens and every person who has experienced a sexual trauma, regardless of whether it is made public.

“I did not come into existence when [Turner] harmed me,” Miller writes. “She found her voice! I had a voice. He stripped it, left me groping around blind for a bit, but I always had it ... I do not owe him my success, my becoming, he did not create me. The only credit Brock can take is for assaulting me, and he could never even admit to that.”

Miller has an almost inconceivable well of perspective on her experience. She writes about the way that her relative anonymity allowed her statement to feel almost universal. Instead, she was allowed to become “the lady with the blue hair, the one with the nose ring. I was sixty-two, I was Latina, I was a man with a beard. How do you come after me, when it is all of us?”

As women in a culture that does not respect us — one that views our bodies alternately as public property and private objects that should be obscured from view and “protected” from impurity — we pretty much all have a story. After Miller’s statement was published on BuzzFeed, I spoke to countless women who saw themselves or their loved ones in her words. Her words did not fade from public memory, because they were not attached to one face, one life that could be picked apart and mined for stereotypes and imperfect victimhood.

Miller’s memoir also articulates the way that sexual assault has ripple effects far beyond just the victim. So many of us have been counselors and confidants, holding our friends’ pain the way that Miller’s sister and parents and friends did. We wonder if we had just stayed at that bar an hour longer or just been more vigilant at that party, if we could have prevented irreversible damage perpetrated by someone who felt entitled to the bodies of our loved ones.

When a story of sexual trauma becomes national news, there is a temptation to paper over the complexities in favor of a Big Uplifting Lesson. In a world of constant updates and 24-hour news cycles, we have become accustomed to reading a headline and moving on. We prefer stories that are digestible, stories with clear-cut, one-dimensional heroes and villains, stories that provide a pat lesson that allows us to believe that our work here is done. But healing is not linear, nor is it quick, and neither is real, lasting social change. And it is not the responsibility of survivors to make their pain and recovery more palatable to the masses.

Toward the end of the book, Miller describes a protracted tug of war with Stanford over a plaque that was to be placed at the scene of her assault, now a small garden with two benches. There was supposed to be a plaque engraved with a quote from Miller’s victim impact statement, but Stanford would not approve any of the passages she suggested, because they were not uplifting enough.

It is not the responsibility of survivors to make their pain and recovery more palatable to the masses.

“As a survivor, I feel a duty to provide a realistic view of the complexity of recovery,” Miller writes. “I am not here to rebrand the mess [Turner] made on campus. It is not my responsibility to alchemize what he did into healing words society can digest. I do not exist to be the eternal flame, the beacon, the flowers that bloom in your garden.”

Chanel Miller just wants what was always afforded to Brock Turner: to be viewed as a human being, with likes and dislikes and communities surrounding her and pain and potential. At one point in the book, Miller wonders if Judge Persky and others who bemoaned all that Turner would lose if he faced significant legal consequences, saw her as “frozen” in those 20 minutes of victimization.

“She remained frozen,” Miller writes, “while Brock grew more and more multifaceted, his story unfolding, a spectrum of life and memories opening up around him. Nobody talked about the things she might go on to do.”

But Miller also understands that the best way to go from headline to human is to write about and speak about your own story in your own words on your own terms. “Know My Name” is a memoir, yes, but it’s also a heart-wrenchingly honest manifesto for any survivor.

“The barricades that held us down will not work anymore,” Miller writes. “And when silence and shame are gone, there will be nothing to stop us. We will not stand by as our mouths are covered, bodies entered. We will speak, we will speak, we will speak.”

Perhaps the world is finally ready to start listening.

Need help? Visit RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Online Hotline or the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s website.

Remembering the Yazidi men, women and children murdered and enslaved in ongoing genocide by ISIS

The brutal genocidal campaign of mass murder, rape and enslavement began five years ago on August 3, 2014. Today, the Women Refugees Advocacy Project held a ceremony in Vancouver to demand justice for the Yazidi.

Marker of Change, Thornton Park, August 4, 2019
(Photos by Lianne Payne)

My Person of the Year: Nadia Murad
by David Suissa | Dec 19, 2018 | Editor's Note

Nadia Murad was 21 in the summer of 2014 when ISIS militants attacked her Yazidi village in northern Iraq, close to the border with Syria. The militants killed those who refused to convert to Islam, including six of her brothers and her mother.

According to media reports, after being captured, Murad was taken to Mosul, where she was forced to convert to Islam and endured three months as a sex slave at the hands of the militants. She was bought and sold several times and subjected to sexual and physical abuse during her captivity.

She tried to escape, but was immediately caught by one of the guards, she told the BBC. Under their rules, she said, a captured woman became a spoil of war if she was caught trying to escape. She would be put in a cell and raped by all the men in the compound. The militants called this practice “sexual jihad.”

“Referring to the thousands of women still in ISIS’ grip, Nadia Murad added: ‘It is inconceivable that the conscience of the leaders of 195 countries around the world is not mobilized to liberate these girls.'”

A Muslim family that had no connection with ISIS helped Murad escape. She managed to cross into Iraqi Kurdistan and found refuge in camps with other Yazidis. She later reached Europe and now lives in Germany.

Since winning her freedom, Murad has campaigned for the thousands of women who are still believed to be held captive by ISIS.

She was awarded the Václav Havel Human Rights Prize by the Council of Europe in 2016, and called for an international court to judge crimes committed by ISIS in her acceptance speech in Strasbourg, France.

That same year, Murad also was awarded the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought by the European Parliament. She was named the United Nations’ first goodwill ambassador for survivors of human trafficking later that year.

In October of this year, Murad was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

“A woman being raped on a battlefield in Mosul should get as much attention as a woman being raped in a hotel room in New York City.”

Despite all that, Murad still hasn’t become a household name in the United States. As The World Tribune reported after her victory, “News that Yazidi sex slave survivor Nadia Murad has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war barely registered on the American media radar screen.”

Because she’s gone largely unnoticed in America in the era of #MeToo, if I were editor of Time magazine, Murad would have been my choice for Person of the Year.

Murad offers a unique opportunity for the #MeToo movement to become more global. Among the things I love about the movement is that it wasn’t a flash in the pan. Since it exploded on the scene over a year ago, more and more victims of sexual abuse have felt free to speak out. A crucial conversation has begun. Justice, however halting, is being served. The cause is now ingrained in our national consciousness.

Murad’s story takes the issue of sexual abuse from the home and workplace to regions of armed conflict. It expands the #MeToo movement internationally to where it is sorely needed.

In her address after receiving the Nobel Prize, as reported in The New York Times, Murad condemned “the international community’s indifference to wartime sexual violence and pleaded for new efforts to arrest or punish those responsible.”

“Thank you very much for this honor,” she said, “but the fact remains that the only prize in the world that can restore our dignity is justice and the prosecution of criminals.”

Referring to the thousands of women still in ISIS’ grip, Murad added: “It is inconceivable that the conscience of the leaders of 195 countries around the world is not mobilized to liberate these girls. 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.”

We like to think of globalism in terms of economic interdependence and the protection of the environment, which are hugely important. But justice for victims of sexual abuse ought to be another pillar of globalism. A woman being raped on a battlefield in Mosul should get as much attention as a woman being raped in a hotel room in New York City.

As Murad told the Jewish Journal in an interview last year, “When ISIS is held accountable, when my people are protected, when the women are freed and my people live with dignity, I will be happy then.”

Accountability. Protection. Freedom. Dignity. Happiness. Not a bad list for 2019.

Happy New Year.


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