Congolese doctor helps Yazidi women overcome rape stigma

2018-06-27 15:26
Congolese gynaecologist Denis Mukwege (Safin Hamed/AFP)

Congolese gynaecologist Denis Mukwege (Safin Hamed/AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

At the Yazidi minority's holiest site in Iraq, Congolese gynaecologist Denis Mukwege pays homage to a spiritual leader who has decreed women raped by the Islamic State group should not be stigmatised.

The renowned doctor shakes hands with white-bearded Khurto Hajji Ismail, the Yazidis' Baba Sheikh or spiritual leader, in the Lalish temple where two conical roofs symbolise the journey from earth to heaven.

Yazidis are followers of an ancient religion with more than half a million believers in northern Iraq, but in 2014 ISIS kidnapped thousands of the sect's women and girls as sex slaves.

"In many communities, women are excluded - stigmatised just after being raped", the 63-year-old gynaecologist told AFP, just ahead of his visit to the temple in Nineveh province.

"But Baba Sheikh has said we are human... and women should not be stigmatised" after what they have suffered, he added.

The sexual enslavement of Yazidis is a tragedy Mukwege is especially qualified to talk about.

Back home in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) he runs a hospital that has treated tens of thousands of women in South Kivu province.

The patients are victims of a brutal 1998-2003 war and subsequent conflicts, where mass rape has been used as a weapon of war.

Thanks to Baba Sheikh's stance, Yazidi women can break "the silence" and give their testimony, Mukwege said.

"I think there is a way to share this experience... to join our forces to fight against rape as a weapon of war", Mukwege said.

"When this happens, don't say 'It's Iraq, Congo, Colombia, or Korea', we have just to say our humanity was abused", the doctor added.

He also called on the international community "to take responsibility" for the Yazidis' treatment by ISIS, which the United Nations has branded a genocide.

"If there is no justice, if you let this happen without punishment", it can be repeated, he told AFP.

A UN report published in August said Iraq was responsible for prosecuting perpetrators and helping victims, while warning that women who were married off to ISIS fighters risked discrimination.

Change 'pain into power' 

Mukwege was invited to Iraq by Yazda, an NGO created in 2014 to help Yazidi women recover from the trauma of rape.

He took part in a workshop on Monday in Dohuk, in northern Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan region, to pass on expertise to those working to rehabilitate Yazidi survivors.

The doctor listened and gave advice to participants.

* Sign up to News24's top Africa news in your inbox: SUBSCRIBE TO THE HELLO AFRICA NEWSLETTER 

FOLLOW News24 Africa on Twitter and Facebook

The training and insights from DRC will benefit "our community through medical support, psycho-social support, legal support and also livelihood support" for affected women, Yazda member Nagham Alawka said.

"I wanted to see how they experience it, how they get over it... so I can help the women in my community who have been under ISIS, who have been survivors to really rebuild and change this pain into power," Alawka said.

More than 6 400 Yazidis were enslaved by ISIS in 2014, according to Kurdistan's Ministry of Religious Affairs.

Of this total, some 3 200 were rescued or successfully escaped.

The fate of the others is unknown - and in some cases might never be confirmed.

Military offensives by Iraqi security forces against ISIS saw its self-proclaimed caliphate crumble, with some surviving jihadists fleeing to neighbouring Syria.

Alongside the kidnappings, ISIS killed thousands of Yazidis.

Read more on:    isis  |  denis mukwege  |  drc  |  central africa
NEXT ON NEWS24X

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

Inside News24

 
/News
Traffic Alerts

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Jobs in Western Cape region

Reporting Accountant

Cape Town
Network Finance Professional / Prudential
R310 000.00 - R360 000.00 Per Year

HSE Manager

Cape Town
Tumaini Consulting
R550 000.00 - R650 000.00 Per Year

SQL Reporter

Cape Town
Communicate Cape Town IT
R10 000.00 - R12 000.00 Per Month

Property [change area]

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.