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Nobel Peace Prize creates new courage

Nadia Murad Basee Taha

DR. Denis Mukwege

By Simone Schlindwein from Bukavu

Claire Riziki has been raped. In a therapy facility that is unique in the Congo, she takes heart. A visit to the "City of Joy".

As soon as the courtyard gate has closed between the high walls, it becomes quiet. The chaotic hustle and bustle in the narrow, dirty streets of the eastern Congolese provincial town of Bukavu can hardly be heard: the music from the loudspeakers of the wooden booths, the crackling of the diesel generators, they fall silent.

Birds chirp behind the walls, the wind rustles through the palm fronds. The smell of burning plastic garbage and charcoal stoves outside gives way to the smell of flowers, mango trees. Paved paths lead through a grove of purple-colored bougainvillea bushes, with chickens cackling and worms pecking out of the lawn.

The "City of Joy" looks like an island of peace in the middle of the civil war area of ​​Eastern Congo. "The peace and quiet and nature should help to reduce stress and calm the nerves," explains Rosine Chofi. The energetic woman in her mid-thirties in a brightly patterned fabric dress is one of six psychologists who treat raped women. “Many come to us because they are traumatized, have nightmares, anxiety, depression, or even have thoughts of suicide,” she says. "You are completely blocked in your life." After six months of therapy, however, 95 percent of women are able to cope with their lives again.

A hospital doctor as a Nobel Peace Prize laureate

The metropolis of Bukavu on the southern bank of the picturesque Lake Kivu in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo is often referred to in the global media as the “world capital of rape”, and the Congo is the “worst country to be a woman”. Particular attention has been paid to Panzi Hospital in Bukavu in recent weeks. Its founder and chief gynecologist Denis Mukwege received the Nobel Peace Prize a few days ago in Oslo, Norway.

Over 80,000 patients have been treated at Panzi Hospital since it was founded in 1999. The first women who were admitted at that time were seriously injured: They were shot in the vagina with a Kalashnikov or gasoline was poured into their laps and set on fire. Head physician Denis Mukwege operated on and provided medical care until the bleeding stopped and she could walk or sit again.

But the mental scars remain. That is why Mukweges' deputy in the Panzi Foundation, Christine Schuler-Deschryver, founded the “City of Joy” seven years ago as a psychological trauma center. Because even when the war is over in most of the country, “sexual terrorism”, as Schuler-Deschryver calls the systematic rape, is not going away. Only a few months ago in the Shabunda jungle district in South Kivu all women in a village were raped by militias again - from children to grandmothers. “That has nothing to do with sexual satisfaction,” Schuler-Deschryver explains the phenomenon. Sex becomes a weapon of war, the woman's body “the battlefield” to destroy a community from within, because “women are the engine of society”.

The native of the Congolese has just returned to Bukavu from Oslo. She looks exhausted after the long journey and the media hype, but happy. “The Nobel Prize is the highest recognition for all of us,” says Schuler-Deschryver. The question is, "How can we get even more out of the price in order to be able to achieve even more?" She points to her cell phone. The documentary “City of Joy”, which can be seen on the online channel Netflix, is becoming more popular - also because of the Nobel Prize award. The taz was able to visit the "City of Joy".

Meditation lessons to combat trauma

The psychologist Rosine Chofi walks along a path, surrounded by flowers and palm trees, peppered with innumerable bird nests. She heads for a circular bamboo hut in the middle of a meadow and takes off her sandals. The floor is covered with self-woven raffia mats, the walls and ceilings are decorated with patterned fabrics. This is where the psychologist holds her meditation lessons, in addition to music, theater and dance, self-defense and group discussions - one of numerous therapeutic approaches that have proven themselves in recent years.

Claire Riziki sits on a stool in the middle of the hut. The 20-year-old wears jeans and a T-shirt, her hair is carefully braided, her fingernails are brightly painted. She sits very calmly upright and breathes in and out deeply, just as she learned in the meditation lessons. A smile that appears sincere stands out around her large, round eyes. "I am healed," she says, smiling all over her face.

Rosine Chofi takes the small girl in her arms. Just a few months ago, Riziki could not allow any contact, was closed in on herself, neglected her body, only cried, breathed shallowly and shivered. "Whenever someone asked me what my problem was, I always kept everything secret and kept silent," she recalls. Then she starts laughing and says: “Today I can talk like a waterfall”. Chofi, who is sitting next to her, nods in confirmation. After six months in the “City of Joy”, she feels “like a new person,” says Riziki. "I have learned to transform pain into strength".

They asked for sexual favors

Claire Riziki cannot count how often she was raped. It was "almost every day," she says. Her rapists were teachers in her school, even the principal - because she couldn't pay the school fees. In order to teach her anyway, they asked for sexual favors. “I sacrificed my body for my education,” she says. She dreams of studying and becoming a doctor.

The village of Kibanga, from which Riziki comes, is located around 30 kilometers outside of Bukavu along the border with the Kahuzi-Biega National Park. To protect the threatened gorillas, the forest peoples were banned from the park, the German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ) built a village for them, gave them farmland and a school.

But people still live in poverty because agriculture is not part of their culture. “We stole our neighbors' crops to have something to eat,” says Riziki. She is the youngest of six children, and her father ran away shortly after she was born. The mother never had money to pay for school fees for any of her children, especially the youngest daughter. Claire Riziki was the only girl who had to help her mother with household chores from an early age: hauling water from the river, fetching firewood in the forest - heavy physical work.

Sexual exploitation as a weapon in war

Source: TAZ >>>>> read on

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Graphic sources:

Above -Nadia Murad Basee Taha (Arabic; * 1993 in Kocho, Sinjar, Iraq) is a survivor of the 2014 genocide of the Yazidis, Iraqi (Yazidi) human rights activist and, since September 2016, the first special envoy for the dignity of survivors of human trafficking[1] the United Nations (UNODC).[2][3] On December 10, 2018, she and Denis Mukwege received the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo.[4] She is the first Iraqi woman and the only Yezidi woman to receive a Nobel Peace Prize.[5]

U.S. Department of State from United States - https://www.flickr.com/photos/statephotos/42733243785/…

Nadia Murad, a prominent Yezidi human rights activist and survivor of ISIS gender-based violence, delivers remarks at the Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C.

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2.) from above Dr. Denis Mukwege (born March 1, 1955 in Bukavu, Belgian Congo) is a Congolese gynecologist, human rights activist, founder and chief surgeon of the Panzi Hospital in Bukavu and a Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

Radio Okapi - Flickr: Docteur Denis Mukwege ...

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Below -Original caption states, “Dem. Rep. Congo: Meeting for Rape Victims Rape victims who have been successfully reintegrated into their communities assemble in a "peace hut" near Walungu, South Kivu in DRC. USAID-supported health programs have assisted rape victims with counseling, training, employment, and safe living environments. "...

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