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Nobel Peace Prize winners fight rape as ‘a weapon of war’

The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded Friday in Oslo, Norway. The winners are two people fighting sexual violence. Twenty-five-year-old Nadia Murad, from Iraq, escaped enslavement, rape, and torture. She says she hopes to be “the last girl with a story like mine.” Dr. Denis Mukwege is a Congolese surgeon who has risked his life to treat thousands of rape victims. William Brangham reports.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    As we reported earlier, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded this morning in Oslo, Norway.

    William Brangham takes a closer look at the winners, two champions of women who have survived sexual violence and the use of rape as a weapon of war.

  • And a warning:

    Descriptions of acts of violence in this story will disturb some viewers.

  • William Brangham:

    The decision to award the prize to an Iraqi survivor of wartime sexual violence and a Congolese doctor who treats such survivors was especially significant, given the world's growing awareness of an epidemic of violence against women.

  • Berit Reiss-Andersen:

    We want to send out a message of awareness that women, who constitute half of the population in most communities, actually are used as a weapon of war, and that they need protection, and that the perpetrators have to be prosecuted.

  • William Brangham:

    Prize winner Nadia Murad, a member of the small Yazidi religious minority in Iraq, escaped from enslavement by the Islamic State and became a fighter for those who have survived human trafficking.

    Murad was 21 when ISIS militants captured, raped and tortured her back in 2014. During three months in captivity, she was bought and sold for sex multiple times. After her escape, Murad showed remarkable candor in telling her story, and quickly became a well-known advocate for victims of sex trafficking and fought to protect the rights of refugees in Europe.

    In 2016, she spoke at the United Nations, urging the world to more forcefully confront ISIS and defend the victims of its crimes.

  • Nadia Murad (through translator):

    All those who commit the crime of human trafficking and genocide need to be brought to justice, so that women and children who live in peace in Syria, Iraq, Nigeria, and Somalia, and everywhere in the world, all these crimes must be brought to an end today.

  • William Brangham:

    That same year, Murad was named the U.N.'s first ambassador for survivors of human trafficking.

    Now, at the age of 25, Murad has said she hopes to be — quote — "the last girl with a story like mine."

    Last year, "NewsHour" special correspondent Jane Ferguson traveled to Iraq for a closer look at the plight of women like Murad in the Yazidi community. Ferguson spoke with one woman who had been sold as a slave in neighboring Syria.

  • Woman(through translator):

    ISIS families wanted Yazidi women to clean for them, but not if they came with children. They put my picture and my name on social media as a slave for sale and said I come without children.

    I told the woman who bought me that I dreamed of going home. And she said, "You will never go home. You will die in my house."

  • William Brangham:

    In 2015, special correspondent Marcia Biggs reported from Northern Iraq on a group of girls who managed to escape from the Islamic State.

  • Woman(through translator):

    They were pulling us from our mothers and beating us. The children were all put in cars. They said, "We're going to sell you to others and you will have sex with them." The last time I saw my mother was when they took me away.

  • William Brangham:

    Murad shared today's prestigious prize with Dr. Denis Mukwege . The 63-year-old gynecological surgeon has risked his life and his family's safety to treat tens of thousands of female victims of sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

    Mukwege learned of today's news just after he had finished surgery at the hospital he heads in Eastern Congo. This longtime advocate for human rights celebrated the achievement with his colleagues and their patients.

  • Denis Mukwege (through translator):

    I dedicate this Nobel Peace Prize to the women of all the countries of the world wounded by conflict and confronted by violence every day. Dear survivors around the world, I want to tell you that, through this prize, the world is listening to you and refuses indifference. The world refuses to stand immobile before your suffering.

  • William Brangham:

    In addition to treating victims, Mukwege has spoken out publicly against the Congolese government for turning what he says is a blind eye to the rampant sexual violence in his country, which has flourished amid the DRC's decades-long conflicts.

    Many of his patients were brutally gang-raped.

    Safi Kungwa is one of them.

  • Safi Kungwa (through translator):

    My problems started with rebels from Rwanda. They grabbed me when I'm carrying my twins. My children were holding onto my legs, and my husband was standing next to me. The rebels proceeded to rape me in front of my children, after they shot my husband.

  • William Brangham:

    Back in 2011, Dr. Mukwege described the horrific injuries he's witnessed.

  • Denis Mukwege (through translator):

    All the victims have been raped with unbelievable brutality. Those who manage to survive reach the hospital in a state of incredible physical and psychological destruction. Often, they arrive with the genital system destroyed by bullets or sharp objects, an act of savagery unheard before in the history of the region.

  • William Brangham:

    The doctor spoke of the personal connection he develops with each victim when he addressed the European Parliament in France back in 2014.

  • Denis Mukwege (through translator):

    I identify violated women with my wife. I identify each violated mother with my mother. And I identify each violated child with my children.

  • William Brangham:

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm William Brangham.

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