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Nobel recipients demand action against sexual violence

Nobel laureates Nadia Murad and Dr. Denis Mukwege posed during a press conference on Sunday in Oslo.
Nobel laureates Nadia Murad and Dr. Denis Mukwege posed during a press conference on Sunday in Oslo.(TOBIAS SCHWARZ/AFP/Getty Images)

OSLO — A winner of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize says the attention the prize has drawn to sexual violence against women in war zones must be followed by action.

Dr. Denis Mukwege spoke Sunday at a news conference with Nadia Murad of Iraq, with whom he shared the $1 million prize. Mukwege was honored for helping sexually abused women at the hospital he founded in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Murad won for her advocacy for sex abuse victims after being kidnapped by Islamic State militants.

‘‘What we see during armed conflicts is that women’s bodies become battlefields, and this cannot be acceptable during our time,’’ Mukwege said. ‘‘We cannot only denounce it, we now need to act.’’

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Murad, 25, was one of 3,000 girls and women from Iraq’s Yazidi minority group kidnapped in 2014 by IS militants and sold into sexual slavery. She was raped, beaten, and tortured before escaping three months later. After getting treatment in Germany, she chose to speak about the horrors faced by Yazidi women, despite the stigma in her culture surrounding rape. She said it was difficult ‘‘for a girl, a woman, to rise up to say that these atrocities have happened.’’

Mukwege, a 63-year-old surgeon, founded a hospital in Bukavu and over 20 years has treated women who were raped amid fighting between groups seeking to control of some the central African nation’s mineral wealth.

He expressed concern Sunday that new violence could be coming as Congo holds a general election this month. ‘‘We think the conflict might blow up . . . and women and children are always the first victims of such conflicts,’’ he said.

Along with preventing sexual violence, more effort is needed to attend to victims, Mukwege said. ‘‘We need to realize that any woman who is a victim of sexual violence within her own country — such women should be allowed treatment, and it’s not only medical treatment, also psychological treatment, judicial treatment.’’

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Murad said the psychological burden of her ordeal and her subsequent work is heavy.

‘‘I don’t want to live in fear. For the last four years I have been in Germany, in a safe place, but yet I’m living frightfully,’’ she said.

Associated Press