Nobel Peace Prize honors efforts to combat sexual violence in war

Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad have been named winners of the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize.

The winners were recognized for their contribution to ending sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict, the Norwegian Nobel Committee announced Friday.

Mukwege, a Congolese gynecological surgeon, has been a critic of the Congolese government and has treated victims of sexual violence. Murad is a Yazidi who was a captive of the Islamic State group.

The committee said both Mukwege and Murad had put their personal security at stake as activists to draw attention to the fact that “women are… actually used as a weapon of war.”

Mukwege has treated thousands of victims of rape and sexual abuse in Congo and has condemned the “inhumanity” some men show toward women.

He temporarily left the country in 2012 after armed men tried to kill him.

In its citation, the committee said “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."

Murad has become an outspoken advocate for Yazidi women abused by the Islamic State. In 2015, she told the U.N. Security Council that she and thousands of Yazidi women and girls were kidnapped and used as sex slaves following the fall of the Sinjar-area in Iraq to IS militants.

She escaped after three months in captivity. Around 3,000 women and girls were still missing or presumed dead a year after most IS-held areas were back under control of the Iraqi security forces.

At 23, Murad was named U.N.’s first Goodwill Ambassador for the Dignity of Survivors of Human Trafficking.

"She refused to accept the social codes that require women to remain silent and ashamed of the abuses to which they have been subjected," the committee said.

Nobel historian Oyvind Sternersen praised this year's winners while noting “This is a Nobel bullseye; recognizing victims of war has a long history in the peace prize."

The committee received nominations for 216 people and 115 organizations for this year's prize. Last year's winner was the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons.

The Associated Press contributed to this report