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Highlighting the Need to Combat the Use of Rape as a Weapon of War by Rene Wadlow

The co-laureate of the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize, Denis Mukwege, has become an eloquent spokesperson for the effort to outlaw the use of rape as a weapon of war. Rape has often been considered as a nearly normal part of war. When an army took a city or town, the rape of women followed, a reward to brave soldiers. Military commanders turned a blind eye.

However, whatever may have been past practice, rape has now become a weapon of war, often an effort at genocide. Women’s reproductive organs are deliberately destroyed with the aim of preventing the reproduction of a group – one of the elements of genocide set out in the 1948 Genocide Convention.

mag001_400Denis Mukwege has created a clinic near Bukavu in South Kivu, Democratic Republic of Congo – a country that is democratic only in name. He and a number of younger doctors whom he was trained try to care for women who have undergone rape by multiple men, one after the other, often in public in front of family members and others who know the woman. Known rape, even by a single person, can be a cause of family breakup, lasting shame, and an inability to continue living in the same village. There are also negative attitudes toward children born of a rape. Multiple rape is often followed by deliberate destruction of the reproductive organs.

The eastern area of Congo is the scene of fighting at least since 1998 – in part as a result of the genocide in neighboring Rwanda in 1994. In mid-1994, more than one million Rwandan Hutu refugees poured into the two Kivu states, fleeing the advance of the Tutsi-led Rwandan Patriotic Front now become the government of Rwanda. Many of these Hutu were still armed, among them the “genocidaire” who a couple of months before had led the killings of some 800,000 Tutsi and moderate Hutu in Rwanda. They continued to kill Tutsi living in the Congo, many of whom had migrated there in the 18th century.

The influx of a large number of Hutu led to a desire to control the wealth of the area – rich in gold, tropical timber and rare minerals such as those used in mobile telephones. In the Kivu, many problems arise from land tenure issues. With a large number of new people, others displaced and villages destroyed, land tenure and land use patterns need to be reviewed and modified.

However, violence in the eastern Congo is not limited to fighting between Hutus and Titsis. There are armed bands from neighboring countries – Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda – who have come on the scene attracted by possible wealth from timber and mines of rare minerals. In addition, local commanders of the Congolese Army, far from the control of the Central Government, have created their own armed groups, looting, raping, and burning village homes.

There is a United Nations peacekeeping force in the Congo, the U.N.’s largest peacekeeping mission. However its capacity has reached its limit. Its operations are focused on areas with roads, leaving villages on small paths largely unguarded.

There has been a growing international awareness of the use of rape as a weapon of war. The issue was raised during the conflicts which followed the breakup of Yugoslavia as well as cases brought to the International Criminal Court. The Association of World Citizens has raised the issue in U.N. human rights bodies in Geneva.

Yet there is much yet to be done to make the outlawing of rape as a norm of humanitarian law and especially to prevent its practice. The Nobel Peace Prize to Denis Mukwege should be a strong step forward in this effort.

Ovi magazine

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Nadia Murad: A Yazidi Voice Against Slavery by Rene Wadlow

Nadia Murad, now a United Nation Goodwill Ambassador on Trafficking of Persons, is the co-laureate of the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize. In 2014 when she was 21, she and her neighbors in a predominantly Yazidi village in the Simjar mountainous area of Iraq were attacked by the forces of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). These forces were following a pattern of targeted killings, forced conversions to Islam, abductions, trafficking of women, sexual abuse and slavery. In Murad’s village, most of the older men were killed, the younger men taken to be soldiers in the ISIS forces, and the women taken into slavery, primarily as sex slaves, in Mosul, the city which served as the headquarters of ISIS.

nadia01_400There were some 500,000 Yazidi in Iraq though Iraqi demographic statistics are not fully reliable. Yazidi leaders may give larger estimates by counting Kurds who had been Yazidis but had covertd to Islam. There had been some 200,000 Yazidis among the Kurds in Turkey but now nearly all have migrated to Western Europe, Australia and Canada. Many of the Yazidi are ethnic Kurds and the government of Sadam Hussein was opposed to them not so much for their religious beliefs but because some Yazidi played important roles in the Kurdish community seen as largely opposed to his government.

After a time in Mosul, Murad, with the help of a compassionate Muslim family, was able to escape Mosul and make her way to the Iraqi Kurdistan area where many Yazidis from the Sinjar area had already arrived. Once there she joined a newly created association of Yazidi women who had organized to defend their rights and so that the voices of women could be heard. A few of these women were able to be resettled in Western Europe. Nadia Murad was able to live in Germany where she became the spokesperson for Yazidi women and other women who had met a similar fate. In December 2015, she addressed the U.N. Security Council and became the public face both for the Yazidi women and for an even larger number of women victims of the fighting in Iraq and Syria.

The structure of the Yazidi world view is Zoroastrian, a faith born in Persia proclaiming that two great cosmic forces, that of light and good, and that of darkness and evil, are in constant battle. Man is called upon to help light overcome darkness. However, the strict dualistic thinking of Zoroastrianism was modified by another Persian prophet, Mani of Ctesiplon in the third century CE. Mani tried to create a synthesis of religious teachings that were increasingly coming into contact through trade: Buddhism and Hinduism from India, Jewish and Christian thought, Gnostic philosophy from Egypt and Greece, as well as many smaller traditional and “animist” beliefs. He kept the Zoroastrian dualism as the most easily understood intellectual framework, though giving it a more Taoist (yin/yang) character. Mani had traveled in China. He developed the idea of the progression of the soul by individual effort through reincarnation – a main feature of Indian thought.

Within the Mani-Zoroastrian framework, the Yazidi added the presence of angels who are to help humans in their constant battle for light and good. The main angel is Melek Tavis, the peacock angel. Although there are angels in Islam, angels that one does not know could well be demons, so the Yazidi are regularly accused of being “demon worshipers” (1).

While it is dangerous to fall into a good/evil analysis of world politics, there is little to see of “good” in the iSIS actions. Thus Nadia Murad can be seen as a bringer of light into a dark time.

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Winning a Nobel was a disaster

Nobel Prize-winning author Doris Lessing has said winning the prestigious award in 2007 had been a “bloody disaster“.

The increased media interest in her has meant that writing a full novel was next to impossible, she told Radio 4’s Front Row. Lessing, 88, also said she would probably now be giving up writing novels altogether. Her latest book is the partly fictional memoir entitled Alfred and Emily.

Since her Nobel win she has been constantly in demand, she said. “All I do is give interviews and spend time being photographed.” Speaking about her writing, she said: “It has stopped; I don’t have any energy any more.”This is why I keep telling anyone younger than me; don’t imagine you’ll have it forever.

“Use it while you’ve got it because it’ll go, it’s sliding away like water down a plughole.” Lessing is the 11th woman to win the Nobel Prize for literature in its 106-year history. Her best known works include The Golden Notebook and The Good Terrorist.

The disaster is that she’s not writing anymore and makes you think the cost of these …ten minutes for the ones who could do without the Hollywood style fame.

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