2018 Nobel Peace Prize awarded to anti-rape activists

The 2018 Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad for their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict. Dr. Mukwege, a gynecologist and surgeon, has long worked to treat thousands of women and girls affected by rape and sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Ms. Murad is a Yazidi woman from the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar, who was tortured and raped by Islamic State militants. In 2016, she was made a United Nations goodwill ambassador for the dignity of survivors of human trafficking.

“Both laureates have made a crucial contribution to focusing attention on, and combating, such war crimes,” said Berit Reiss-Andersen, chair of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, as she announced the award on October 5 at the Norwegian Nobel Institute in Oslo. “Denis Mukwege is the helper who has devoted his life to defending these victims. Nadia Murad is the witness who tells of the abuses perpetrated against herself and others. 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.”Ms. Murad, 25 (the second youngest winner of the Peace Prize), said in a statement that many Yazidis would “look upon this prize and think of family members that were lost, are still unaccounted for, and of the 1,300 women and children which remain in captivity. For myself, I think of my mother, who was murdered by [Islamic State], the children with whom I grew up, and what we must do to honor them.”

New Iraqi President Barham Saleh called the award “an honor for all Iraqis who fought terrorism and bigotry.” Dr. Mukwege and his colleagues are said to have treated about 30,000 rape victims, developing great expertise in the treatment of serious injuries sustained during sexual assaults that were carried out as a weapon of war. He was operating at his hospital when he heard he had won the prize and dedicated his award to all women affected by sexual violence.

“This Nobel prize is a recognition of the suffering and the failure to adequately compensate women who are victims of rape and sexual violence in all countries around the world,” he told reporters. He lives under the permanent protection of U.N. peacekeepers at his hospital.

– edited from CNN and BBC News, October 5, 2018
PeaceMeal, Nov/December 2018

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Anti-nuke campaign group wins 2017 Nobel Peace Prize

The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided to award the Nobel Peace Prize for 2017 to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) — a coalition of grassroots non- government organizations in more than 100 countries. The organization was chosen for its work to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and for its ground-breaking efforts to achieve a treaty-based prohibition of the weapons.

In her speech announcing the prize, Berit Reiss-Andersen, the leader of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, said “the risk of nuclear weapons being used is now greater than it has been for a long time. Some states are modernizing their nuclear arsenals, and there is a real danger that more countries will try to procure nuclear weapons, as exemplified by North Korea.”

The award to ICAN was unexpected, particularly in a year when the architects of the 2015 nuclear deal between world powers and Iran had been seen as favorites for achieving the sort of diplomatic breakthrough that has won the prize in the past.

ICAN’s Executive Director Beatrice Fihn said the group was elated. Asked if she had a message for North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un, who has tested nuclear weapons in defiance of global pressure, and President Donald Trump, who has threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea to protect the United States and its allies, Fihn said both leaders need to know that the weapons are illegal: “Nuclear weapons are illegal. Threatening to use nuclear weapons is illegal. Having nuclear weapons, possessing nuclear weapons, developing nuclear weapons, is illegal, and they need to stop.”

Fihn said Trump’s impulsive character illustrated the importance of banning nuclear weapons for all countries. “A man you can bait with a tweet seems to be taking irrational decisions very quickly and not listening to expertise.”

ICAN has campaigned for a U.N. Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which was adopted by 122 countries in July. That agreement is not signed by — and would not apply to — any of the states that already have nuclear weapons, which include the five U.N. Security Council permanent members — the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France.

Although NATO member Norway, whose parliament appoints the Nobel Peace Prize committee, congratulated ICAN, it said it would not sign the treaty to ban nuclear weapons. “Norway will not support proposals in the U.N. that would weaken NATO’s role as a defense alliance,” Prime Minister Erna Solberg said.

– edited from Reuters and the Norwegian Nobel Committee
PeaceMeal, Nov/December 2017

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Tunisian group wins 2015 Nobel Peace Prize

The Norwegian Nobel Committee on Oct. 9 awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to an alliance of four Tunisian civil society groups for their tireless efforts to foster democracy in the nation that gave birth to the Arab Spring. The four groups, including a worker’s union with more than 1 million members, have worked to advance democracy in Tunisia, which still struggles with unrest but has made relative strides in reforms as other Arab Spring nations face greater violence, instability and the re-emergence of dictatorships.

The groups, the committee said, made a “decisive contribution to the building of a pluralistic democracy in Tunisia in the wake of the Jasmine Revolution of 2011. More than anything, the prize is intended as encouragement for the Tunisian people who have laid the groundwork for a national fraternity which the committee hopes will be followed by other countries.”

The National Dialogue Quartet consists of four key organi-zations in Tunisian civil society, including the Tunisian General Labor Union, the Tunisian Confederation of Industry, Trade and Handicrafts, the Tunisian Human Rights League and the Tunisian Order of Lawyers. But the award also seemed to more broadly honor a nation where the Arab Spring began after street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire on Dec. 17, 2010 to protest his impotence after his wares were confiscated by local authorities.

Ali Zeddini, vice president of the Tunisian Human Rights League, acknowledged that the Nobel decision comes “at a time of great stress and tension in Tunisia. But it has reminded us of our accomplishments, and places great responsibility on us to maintain peace and our democracy through dialogue.”

Today, Tunisia’s political transition remains far from complete and tenuous. But the progress made thus far came about because of the ability of civil society groups to reach a “landmark compromise” between the government and opposition groups, according to Mohamed Kerrou, a nonresident scholar at the Carnegie Middle East Center.

In 2013, the influential labor union sought a national dialogue, uniting with other groups to force the fledging Tunisian govern-ment into negotiations and compromise with opposing forces as the nation was spiraling into both economic and political crises. Following the fall of President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali in 2011, Tunisia’s democracy emerged as the strongest in the Arab world, even as it confronted still deep divisions and challenges.

After a dialogue between Islamist and secularist lawmakers, Tunisia last year passed a constitution seen as one of the most liberal in the Arab world and winning praise from human rights groups. Tunisia also held its first democratic presidential elections, voting in President Beji Caid Essebsi, an 88-year-old who formerly served under the repressive regime of Habib Bourguiba.

Yet the nation has since struggled to find a lasting peace, and fears have reemerged about the threat to democracy following a crackdown against rising Islamic extremism.

– edited from The Washington Post, October 9, 2015
PeaceMeal, Nov/December 2105

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Pakistani teen, Indian activist win 2014 Nobel Peace Prize

Malala_Yousafzay.jpg (29687 bytes)OSLO – Pakistani teenager Malala Yousafzai, who was shot in the head by the Taliban in 2012 for advocating girls’ right to education, and Indian campaigner against child trafficking and labor Kailash Satyarthi have been named winners of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize. Yousafzai, 17, becomes the youngest Nobel Prize winner, and Satyarthi, 60, the first Indian-born winner of the prize. They were picked for their struggle against the oppression of children and young people, and for the right of all children to education, the Norwegian Nobel Committee said.

The sharing of the award between an Indian and a Pakistani came after a week of hostilities along the border of the disputed, mainly Muslim region of Kashmir between India and Pakistan — the worst fighting between the nuclear-armed rivals in more than a decade.

“The Nobel Committee regards it as an important point for a Hindu and a Muslim, an Indian and a Pakistani, to join in a common struggle for education and against extremism,” said Thorbjoern Jagland, the head of the Norwegian Nobel Committee.

Yousafzai told reporters in the English city of Birmingham where she now lives with her family that she had spoken by telephone with Satyarthi and they had agreed to invite the prime ministers of India and Pakistan to the ceremony in December.

Kailash_Satyarthi.jpg (19398 bytes)Satyarthi said he hoped to work with Yousafzai for peace. “I will invite her to join hands to establish peace for our subcontinent, which is a must for children, which is a must for every Indian, for every Pakistani, for every citizen of the world,” he said at the New Delhi office of his organization Save the Childhood Movement.

Yousafzai said she had found out about winning the Nobel Peace Prize on October 10 from a teacher during a chemistry lesson, adding that the news had come as a big surprise. “This is not the end of this campaign which I have started. I think this is really the beginning. I want to see every child going to school,” she said, adding she felt “really honored”.

Malala was attacked in 2012 on a school bus in the Swat Valley of northwest Pakistan by masked gunmen as a punishment for a blog that she wrote as an 11-year-old for the BBC’s Urdu language service to campaign against the Taliban’s efforts to deny women an education. After emergency surgery, she was sent to Birmingham, England, for further treatment and recovery. She has set up the Malala Fund, and supports local education advocacy groups that focus on Pakistan, Nigeria, Jordan, Syria and Kenya.

Earlier this year Malala traveled to Nigeria to demand the release of 200 schoolgirls kidnapped by the Islamist group Boko Haram. She said in a speech, “To the girls of Nigeria and across Africa, and all over the world, I want to say: don’t let anyone tell you that you are weaker than or less than anything. You are not less than a boy. You are not less than a child from a richer or more powerful country. You are the future of your country.”

Satyarthi, who gave up a career as an electrical engineer in 1980 to campaign against child labor, has headed various forms of peaceful protests and demonstrations, focusing on the exploitation of children for financial gain. “It is a disgrace for every human being if any child is working as a child slave in any part of the world,” Satyarthi said.

In a recent op-ed, he said NGO data indicated that child laborers could number 60 million in India. “Children are employed not just because of parental poverty, illiteracy, ignorance, failure of development and education programs, but quite essentially due to the fact that employers benefit immensely from child labor as children come across as the cheapest option, sometimes working even for free,” he wrote.

Last month, based on a complaint filed by his organization in a Delhi court, the Indian government was forced to put in place regulations to protect domestic workers who are often physically and sexually abused and exploited.

The Nobel Peace Prize, worth about $1.1 million, will be presented in Oslo on December 10, the anniversary of the death of Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel, who founded the award in his 1895 will.

– edited from Reuters, October 10, 2014
PeaceMeal Nov/December 2014

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