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Yazidi activist, Congolese doctor win Nobel Peace Prize for combating sexual violence

CBC, Thomson Reuters · Posted: Oct 05, 2018

Norwegian Nobel committee received nominations for 216 individuals, 115 organizations Dr. Denis Mukwege of Congo and Nadia Murad, a Yazidi activist from Iraq, addressed the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, separately, in 2014 and 2016, respectively.

On Friday, they were named as co-winners of the Nobel Peace Prize. (Christian Lutz/Associated Press) Dr. Denis Mukwege, a gynecologist treating victims of sexual violence in Congo, and Nadia Murad, a Yazidi human rights activist and survivor of sexual slavery by the ISIS, won the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize on Friday.

The Norwegian Nobel committee said it had awarded them the prize for their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war. "Both laureates have made a crucial contribution to focusing attention on, and fighting, such war crimes," it said in its citation.

Mukwege, 63, heads the Panzi Hospital in the eastern city of Bukavu. Opened in 1999, the clinic receives thousands of women each year, many of them requiring surgery from sexual violence. Armed men tried to kill him in 2012, forcing him to temporarily leave the country.

"The importance of Dr. Mukwege's enduring, dedicated and selfless efforts in this field cannot be overstated. He has repeatedly condemned impunity for mass rape and criticized the Congolese government and other countries for not doing enough to stop the use of sexual violence against women as a strategy and weapon of war," the committee said in its citation.

Eastern Congo has seen more than two decades of conflict among armed groups that either sought to unseat presidents or simply grab control of a piece of the country's vast mineral wealth. Reached by phone on Friday, Mukwege said he was in surgery when he learned he had been named a Nobel laureate. "I can see in the faces of many women how they are happy to be recognized. This is really so touching."

Harrowing ordeal

Murad is an advocate for the Yazidi minority in Iraq and for refugee and women's rights in general. She is one of an estimated 3,000 Yazidi girls and women who were victims of rape and other abuses by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

"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," the committee said.

Murad was 21 years old in 2014 when ISIS militants attacked the village where she had grown up in northern Iraq. They killed those who refused to convert to Islam, including six of her brothers and her mother.

Murad, along with many of the other young women in her village, was taken into captivity by the militants and sold repeatedly for sex as part of ISIS's slave trade. She eventually escaped captivity with the help of a Sunni Muslim family in Mosul, the group's de facto capital in Iraq, and became an advocate for the rights of her community around the world.

At 23, she was named the UN's first goodwill ambassador for the dignity of survivors of human trafficking.

"It is unacceptable for a woman to be rescued from captivity from ISIS to come and not have a place to live, to be put in refugee camps," Murad told CBC's Nahlah Ayed in a 2016 interview.

"It is unacceptable for education, for people not to have education. We are a peaceful community that existed in Iraq for thousands of years and we deserve a better life."

Murad visited Canada in July 2016 and lobbied Ottawa to allow in more Yazidi refugees. In October 2016, MPs unanimously supported a motion to bring an unspecified number of Yazidi women and girls to Canada within 120 days.

In February 2017, Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen announced the target would be 1,200 by the end of 2017.

Today, there are roughly 1,310 government-supported Yazidi refugees and 94 privately sponsored Yazidis in the country, the immigration minister's office told CBC News.

Watch as Murad speaks on Parliament Hill in July 2016: Yazidi activist makes plea to Parliamentary committee 02:27

Nadia Murad Basee Taha, a Yazidi, and Human Rights Activist, makes an impassioned presentation to the Federal Immigration Committee asking for Canada to start bringing in more Yazidi refugees. 2:27

Conservative immigration critic Michelle Rempel, who sponsored the 2016 motion, said Friday she "can't think of anyone on the planet more deserving" of the award than Murad.

"This is a victory for her, this is a victory for her people, and it underscores the need for international action to prevent women's bodies being used as tools of war," Rempel said.

Hussam Abdullah, head of the Yazidi Organization for Documentation, using an Arabic word to refer to ISIS, said "this win represents the international recognition of the genocide that was committed by Daesh."

Asked whether the #MeToo movement against sexual violence was an inspiration for this year's prize, Nobel committee chair Berit Reiss-Andersen said:

"MeToo and war crimes are not quite the same. But they have in common that they see the suffering of women, the abuse of women, and that it is important that women leave the concept of shame behind and speak up."

The prize is worth 9 million Swedish kronor ($1.29 million Cdn). It will be presented in Oslo on Dec. 10, the anniversary of the death of Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel, who founded the awards in his 1895 will.

Last year's Nobel Peace Prize winner was the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons.

(Photo by Reuters, "ISIS kill us because of our religion")​

Dear Visitors,

Hello everyone, I am the moderator of ROSE. Recently, a group of women and I formed the Women Refugees Advocacy Project. We are united by a common concern for fair and equal treatment for women and girls around the world, and we have been urging the Canadian government to bring Yazidi survivors of enslavement and rape to Canada, and to provide them with safe housing and a program of trauma recovery.

Please sign our petition urging the Canadian government keep its promise to provide comprehensive trauma care for the Yazidi women and girl refugees to Canada.

Will you join us to insist the Canadian government keep its promise?

As part of a genocidal campaign against the Yazidi religious minority in Northern Iraq, ISIS fighters captured an estimated 6,800 Yazidi women and young girls to systematically enslave, serial and gang rape and, in many cases, murder. 

In response to these atrocities, our Minister of Immigration and Refugees, Ahmed Hussen, promised to bring Yazidi survivors to Canada and provide them with trauma recovery care. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted that the Yazidi would receive “the support they need” in Canada. 

But recent investigative reports, including one in The New York Times, tell a different story. Testimony from refugees and community and health service workers in Canadian cities, describes how the Yazidi women are suffering severe post-traumatic stress symptoms, including daily re-living of rape trauma, without any therapeutic program of support. 

It doesn’t have to be like this. A parliamentary committee met with world-renowned psychologist, Dr. Jan Kizilhan, to learn about a specialized trauma recovery program he created for 1,100 Yazidi women and children refugees in Germany that is proving to be effective. 

Will you share this petition so brutality does not triumph and its victims are not abandoned?
Thank you for your consideration. We hope you will stand with us on this important issue. And, if you are part of a group, please consider asking your organization to become a co-petitioner.

Christine McDowell

for the Women Refugees Advocacy Project


“UN human rights panel concludes ISIL is committing genocide against Yazidis,” June 16, 2016 
Backgrounder, Helping vulnerable Yazidi women and children and other survivors of Daesh    
From: Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, 2017-02-21

“Canada will take in 1,200 primarily Yazidi refugees,” Terry Pedwell,, Feb 21, 2017: “As many [Yazidi] have experienced unimaginable trauma, both physical and emotional, many will have unique psychological and social needs such as trauma counselling,” Minister of Immigration and Refugees, Hussen said. 

“We’re taking steps to make sure Yazidi & other survivors of Daesh have the support they need when they get here.” #WelcomeToCanada   Justin Trudeau [Twitter]   4:11 PM - 21 Feb 2017 

Canada Struggles as It Opens Its Arms to Victims of ISIS, by Catherine Porter, March 16, 2018, The New York Times

‘Please Take Us Back to Iraq’: A Yazidi Family’s Traumatic First Days In Canada, by Naomi Buck   Dec 8, 2017, Chatelaine

“A Yazidi family’s traumatic first days in Canada: A refugee family from Iraq says they couldn’t have coped with the shock of their new lives without the support of a dedicated group of volunteers—raising questions about Canada’s ability to help”, by Naomi Buck, Dec 16, 2017, 

Presentation by Dr. Jan Kizilhan, Head, Department of Mental Health and Addiction, Cooperative State University and Dean of the Institute for Psychotherapy and Psychotraumatology, University of Dohuk, as an individual, to the Citizenship and Immigration Committee [parliament of Canada],  November 17, 2016  

Treating Yazidi rape survivors: A psychologist has brought more than 1,000 victims of Islamic State sexual violence to Europe to get medical and psychological treatment, by Rebecca A. Clay, September 2016, Vol 47, No. 8


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