Six years ago today, we lost a close friend – Natalia Estemirova (or Natasha as we called her among friends), RAW in WAR’s first Anna Politkovskaya Award winner.Natalia Estemirova, a courageous human rights defender from Russia’s Chechen Republic, was abducted in front of several witnesses outside of her home in Grozny on 15 July 2009. Her body was found later that day in the neighbouring Republic of Ingushetia.
Until today, nobody has been brought to justice for this crime, despite promises by the then Russian President Dmitriy Medvedev and the then Head of the Investigation Committee to take the investigation under their control. The official investigation has conducted dozens of interviews and spent hundreds of hours of investigative work but without results. The desire to uphold the official version, which puts the blame for the murder at the hands of anti-government fighters, has blighted attempts to reveal the truth.
Natalia was a warm-hearted, generous person, who spoke truth to power - wherever she saw injustice - in order to protect human rights and human dignity.
We at RAW in WAR owe it to our friend Natalia Estemirova to call for justice for her murder, to urge the Russian authorities to really investigate the crime and to bring to justice the perpetrators and the ones who ordered it, no matter who they are.
We continue to call on the Russian Government to stop the campaign against human rights defenders and to support their work in the name of Natalia Estemirova, Anna Politkovskaya and others like them, who lost their lives while defending human rights. We will continue to re-print our open letter from 15 July 2009 , the day Natalia was abducted and killed, until justice is done.
‘Refusing To Be Silenced’ Returns to the London WOW Festival
We are pleased to announce that on Saturday 7th March, 3.30-4.30pm, RAW in WAR’s ‘Refusing To Be Silenced’ will be returning to the London Southbank Centre’s WOW - Women of the World Festival. Taking place between 1st-8th March, the festival brings together talks, debates, performances, and activism celebrating women and girls - and is this year featuring Caitlin Moran, Annie Lennox, The Baulkham Hills African Ladies Troupe, and Shami Chakrabarti, amongst others.
Refusing To Be Silenced seeks to support the women who risk their lives to speak the truth. This year, our session will bring together international women of courage who stand for human rights and justice in war and conflict zones around the world, including winners of the Anna Politkovskaya Award. The session will focus attention on the abducted women and girls in areas of conflict.
Speakers include Elena Kudimova, Anna Politkovskaya’s sister; Vian Dakhil (Iraq), the only Yazidi MP in Iraq’s parliament and RAW in WAR’s 2014 Anna Politkovskaya Award winner ; Obiageli Ezekwesili (Nigeria), founder of the ‘Bring Back Our Girls’ movement to rescue the 300 girls of Chibok abducted by Boko Haram; Angelina Atyam (Uganda), who has tirelessly campaigned to rescue girls abducted in Uganda by the Lord’s Resistance Army, including her 14-year-old-daughter Charlotte; British international correspondent (TBC - Lyse Doucet, BBC Chief International Correspondent and Lindsey Hilsum, Channel 4 News International Editor). The panel will be chaired by Mariana Katzarova, founder of RAW in WAR.
Singer-songwriter Lorraine Jordan and Lana Estemirova, daughter of Natalia Estemirova, the first recipient of the Anna Politkovskaya Award who was killed in Chechnya in 2009, will sing at the event.
We are delighted to be joined by such an inspiring panel of women, and would like to invite you to join us too. You can purchase tickets to attend HERE for £20 (a day pass, giving you access to plenty of other events throughout the day). To read more about the event and speakers, click HERE .
This is an annual award presented by RAW in WAR on or around the 7th October, to mark the anniversary of the murder of Anna Politikovskaya - the Russian campaigning journalist who exposed the truth about human rights abuses in the conflict in Chechnya and paid for it with her life. The Award is presented at a special event in London to a woman human rights defender, working in an area of conflict and oppression, who has made an exceptional contribution to protect the victims of war and conflict, often in the face of considerable personal risk.
Previous award winners include:
2007: Natalia Estemirova (Chechnya/Russia)
2008: Malalai Joya (Afghanistan)
2009: Leila Alikarami on behalf of One Million Signatures Campaign (Iran)
In 2013, our small team here at RAW in WAR put together a fantastic evening at the London Southbank Centre, with guests and supporters joining us as we awarded Malala Yousafzai the seventh annual Anna Politkovskaya Award. The night was one of celebration and education - as we acknowledged the incredible work of women human rights defenders taking place in areas of war and armed conflict across the globe. The evening included performances by Dame Evelyn Glennie, Labi Siffre, Lorraine Jordan, Disarm and the Badac Theatre Company. With Lyse Doucet acting as a wonderful Master of Ceremony, and special guest Sir Nicholas Winton presenting the award to Malala, the 2013 Anna Politkovskaja Award was a night to remember.
This past October, we awarded the Iraqi MP - Vian Dakhil - the eighth annual Anna Politkovskaya Award, on behalf of all Yazidi and Iraqi women besieged by Islamic State. With Vian busy working in Iraq at the time, we were unable to hold an event in London - but we are thrilled that she will be joining us at the Southbank Centre in March for the WOW - Women of the World Festival!
Today, the RAW in WAR team is already working to prepare the 2015 Anna Politkovskaya Award - for which we will be organising an event in London in October to honour another exceptional and brave woman human rights defender from a conflict zone in the world! Your support would help us ensure another night to remember - not just in organising the award ceremony itself, but in supporting the work of the new award winner, as we present a monetary equivalent of the award to the winner. It would also allow RAW in WAR to actively support the human rights work of our award winners in their own countries. With your help we can continue our goal of helping women human rights defenders working in conflict zones be heard and that their selfless work is supported and encouraged.
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Razan Zaitouneh’s determined and courageous writing and truth-telling brought attention to those unable to have the world’s ear. Her voice was the heart and soul of those seeking peace and freedom in Syria. Razan’s work has deeply impressed us at RAW in WAR, as it has many around the world - including the European Parliament, which awarded her the 2011 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. But her voice has also angered those whose violence and abuse she exposed. It is with pain that we recognize that her deep humanity and urge to tell the truth and expose the injustice was the only possible reason for her abduction. Today, we urge everyone able to help ensure Razan’s release to do everything possible to secure her and her colleagues’ freedom.
In 2011, when Razan Zaitouneh learned that she had been selected for the Anna Politkovskaya Award, she wrote a letter to Anna, in which she said:
“Dear Anna, I am aware that your passion for truth and the defense of human dignity, for which you gave your life, is but a link in a chain that stretches across the world, through individuals and entire peoples, all of whom believe in everyone's right to live free of oppression, humiliation, and subjugation. …What we share in humanity transcends languages, nationalities, and borders, just as tyranny and corruption share the same essence although they differ in details. …Each step forward towards peace and justice in any part of the world benefits all humanity. I would like to remind the world that the Syrian people, who were victims to all those crimes yet still patient and persistent, are people who deserve much more than complicit silence, or timid criticism from those who have failed to refer this regime to the International Criminal Court despite acknowledging its crimes.”
VIDEO: A RAW in WAR Documentary Film: The winner of the 2011 Anna Politkovskaya Award - RAZAN ZAITOUNEH
Syria: No word on four abducted activists
A year on, no information on Douma Four
The prominent Syrian human rights defenders Razan Zaitouneh, Samira Khalil, Wa’el Hamada and Nazem Hamadi – the Douma Four—remain missing a year after their abduction, 57 organizations said today. The four were abducted in Duma, a city near Damascus under the control of armed opposition groups. They should be released immediately, the groups said.
We honoured Malala, the brave young woman from Pakistan who has courageously spoken out about the right of every girl and every boy around the world to receive an education. Defying the strict ban imposed by the Taliban on girls attending school, she refused to be silenced in the face of grave danger, just like Anna Politkovskaya did. Malala Yousafzai was only 15-years old when she was shot by the Taliban on 9 October 2012 for campaigning for education for girls.
Malala and Kailash Satyarthi, an Indian child rights activist, are two strong voices for tolerance, equal opportunities, education and civil society, pillars on which a peaceful society can be built. They stand against war and conflict, violence, abuse, hatred and ignorance.
Just one year ago, on 4 October 2014, Malala spoke at the RAW in WAR award ceremony in London, where she received the Anna Politkovskaya Award. At a time when we hear every day about unspeakable violence against children and especially girls, her words resonate even more:
“I would like to accept this award [the Anna Politkovskaya Award] on behalf of all of the women and girls in the world who are standing up for their rights against a backdrop of violence and intimidation. This is for you my sisters….
I am fortunate that people are aware of who I am because it enables me to campaign on these issues, about which I am so passionate. I have been shown great kindness. I am extremely fortunate. Many other people, no less deserving than me, have done great things to further the cause of education. They are unsung heroes.
So, I accept this award for them. I share this award with them.
The challenges may be great but – working together – I know that we will succeed. The legacy of Anna [Politkovskaya] may be the bravery which she showed, and which has helped so many other people to find bravery in themselves also.”
RAW in WAR welcomes this year’s Nobel Peace Prize Committee’s choice at a time when women and girls in India and Pakistan, as well as in Syria, Iraq and in other countries around the world, face persecution, harassment or even death if they want to have an education, if they want to have a voice and demand respect for themselves.
This year, RAW in WAR has honoured another woman, who stands up against hatred and violence like Malala does, like Anna Politkovskaya did. On 6 October, RAW in WAR awarded Vian Dakhil, the Yazidi parliamentarian in Iraq, who speaks out against the persecution of her people by Islamic State, the 2014 Anna Politkovskaya Award.