A YAZIDI woman who was repeatedly raped while held captive by Daesh in northern Iraq and a Congolese gynaecologist who has devoted his life to helping victims of such sex crimes have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee decided to award the prize to Nadia Murad and Denis Mukwege “for their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict”.

It said both laureates had made “a crucial contribution to focusing attention on, and combating, such war crimes,” adding: “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.”

Murad lived with her family in the remote village of Kocho in northern Iraq. In August 2014, Daesh launched a brutal attack on settlements in the Sinjar district, aimed at exterminating the Yazidi population. In her village, several hundred people were massacred.

The younger women, including underage children, were abducted and held as sex slaves. While held by Daesh, Murad was repeatedly subjected to rape and other abuses and threatened with execution if she did not convert to their hateful version of Islam.

She is one of an estimated 3000 Yazidi girls and women who were victims of rape and other abuses by Daesh – part of a military strategy. Thus, they served as a weapon in the fight against Yazidis and other religious minorities.

Murad managed to flee after a three-month nightmare and, following her escape, chose to speak openly about what she had suffered.

In 2016, at the age of just 23, she was named the UN’s first Goodwill Ambassador for the Dignity of Survivors of Human Trafficking.

The National:

Prize winner Denis Mukwege

Mukwege has spent a large part of his adult life helping the victims of sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) – said to be the rape capital of the world.

Since the Panzi Hospital was established in Bukavu in 2008 he and his staff have treated thousands of women, many of whom were victims of gang rape.

Most of the abuses have been committed in the context of a long-running civil war that has cost the lives of more than six million Congolese people.

Armed men tried to kill Mukwege in 2012, forcing him to temporarily leave the country.

The 2018 prize is worth nine million Swedish kronor (£760,000).

Last year’s Nobel Peace Prize winner was the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons.

Berit Reiss-Andersen, head of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, said this year’s winners were chosen to draw attention to the fact that “women are... actually used as weapons of war”.

After announcing the prize, she said both laureates had put their personal security at stake as activists on the issue.

The DRC government congratulated Mukwege while acknowledging that relations have been strained over the years. Spokesman Lambert Mende said he has done “remarkable work” treating victims of sexual violence during years of conflict in the country’s east.

Iraq said Murad was the first Iraqi citizen to win the top international award. State TV interrupted its normal programmes for a special broadcast about her achievement.

A UN spokeswoman said that the awarding of the prize to Mukwege and Murad for their work in combating the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war was a “fantastic announcement”.

Alessandra Velluci said: “This is a cause that is very close to the United Nations and as you know we have a special representative who is also working towards this, and I’m sure that this Nobel Peace Prize will help advance the cause of ending sexual violence as a weapon of conflict.”