Valentina Cherevatenko (Russia): Winner of the 2016 Anna Politkovskaya Award
Valentina Cherevatenko’s letter to Anna on accepting the award
It so happened that while working in the same region of the North Caucasus we often met at different events, bumped into each other in its airports, towns and villages. Our paths crossed and parted and each time we would say that we should get together and talk, properly, not in a rush. But we never got to do that. I still have your Moscow address and telephone number in one of my old notebooks, written by you, in your handwriting.
Whenever I had a chance to have a proper chat and I never got to say this to you…
And now I can’t tell you what I would have said, because my words then would have been addressed to you as you were then. Today I would speak to a different Anna - the one who has lived through years of suffering, struggle, fear - and survived. Survived, if only in the memories of her relatives, friends, colleagues and many, many others because the future depends on their belief/faith/hope. Each time a like-minded person dies, someone who works for the same cause as you do - the cause you both have dedicated your lives to, it takes away your faith in the future, on the one hand, and, on the other, unties the hands of those who value power and money over everything else, over peace, friendship and love, however much they may try to conceal it.
Do you remember, Anna, the time we worked in the Caucasus (Chechnya) and thought that nothing could be more terrifying?
I shall never forget the first peace building mission by my organisation, the Women of the Don. There we were, six women and two men, a small group of people who believed that a lot (well, a little bit, at least) depended on them. We were naive to believe that… We were part of a generation that had learnt about wars from books and films and our grandparents’ stories. In that past war there had been enemies who had occupied our land. Here, in Chechnya, in Grozny, we saw a different war, where people on both sides of the trenches were the same. They were not the people who’d started the war in a land, common to both Russians and Chechens who had shared it peacefully for a long time.
What we encountered was a real tragedy, apartments burnt down, houses destroyed, streets in ruins… and graves, graves right in the middle of courtyards. We met people, ordinary people of different nationalities, who had become hostages to that tragedy.
The people, the people who were the most important thing for you and me, those for whose sake both you, Anna, and I kept coming back, moving between peace and war.
I remember how after one prisoner exchange I had barely managed to get to the house we were staying the night at, all of us together. I found the rest of our team there. They were listening to a woman telling them about her New Year’s Eve: the first night of 1995 when Grozny was bombed, when everyone was bombed, indiscriminately, without any distinction between people of different nationalities …
Of course, you know, Anna, the way mothers in every apartment/house tried to protect their children. Crawling over the floor to find a space with fewer shell splinters, smaller flames, somewhere they hoped they would survive. I remember one girl who was hiding with her mother, utter the words that scorched my soul and have forever imprinted themselves on my mind. “Don’t worry, mummy, don’t worry, I am not afraid of dying...”
I know where you would be today, Anna, you would be in Ukraine. You wouldn’t have stayed in your Moscow flat, knowing that somewhere very close, just an hour and-a-half’s flight away - mothers have to find protection for their children, once again. And old people are dying, and so are young lads, who had dreamed far other dreams than being called to arms. Your words would have rung again (sticking right in the throat of those who’d started this fratricidal war!) and we would have met again in airports, in passing, in a rush. But we would have found time to talk, nevertheless. I would have told you about our work today, the work the Women of the Don are engaged in to bring peace to Ukraine. Meeting you would have lifted our spirits, would have strengthened our belief that what we are doing is very important. The same for which you gave your life- the whole of your life, to the last drop.
I bow deeply to you, Anna. Receiving the award named after you is a great honour for me. It is not an end result, though, and I must tell you this. It is a support, helping me along the path that we need to continue walking, on and on. There is no time to stop, relax, or take a break. Because they are shooting, killing, humiliating and torturing people, AGAIN. It is once again war, and it destroys human kind.
I want to tell you the words I did not get to say to you:: whatever happens, we are not leaving this path. I always feel your presence, Anna, you are right here, by my side!
Jineth Bedoya Lima (Colombia): Winner of the 2016 Anna Politkovskaya Award
The Laws of Silence – The trailer for a film about Jineth Bedoya Lima and her work
Jineth Bedoya Lima’s letter to Anna on accepting the award
Since the day of my abduction I have
spent many a sleepless night crying in the darkness all alone. Each time depression knocks on my door I think
how lucky I am to be still alive; how fortunate I am that the 9-mm gun, pointed
at my temple for many hours, was never fired.
For countless nights I have felt its
heavy weight against my head and have thought about the Irish [journalist]
Verónica Guerin, the Mexicans Marcela Yarce Viveros and Rocío Gonzales, and
I have asked myself if it was really
worth it to sacrifice so much: to put one’s personal life aside, to endure
public scorn, to challenge those in power and the corrupt who think themselves
masters of our lives.To subject our
families to our endless absences, to intimidation and fear for our life.
In the end, I must confess that what
fills me with anguish is not the thought that one day they may succeed in
firing the gun or choose another way of silencing me. What really frightens me
is the possibility of truth never coming out, the powerful remaining unmasked,
the violent going unpunished because of society’s short memory.
Trying to stir up that memory was
what shut your eyes forever, and yet it has opened the eyes of many other
people, such as myself, to the possibility of not capitulating.
Millions of people need the few who
do not capitulate. So today, ten years after your assassination I take a
decision in your honour - not to capitulate. Not to capitulate as we see the
beginning of an end to the violent conflict in my country, Colombia, not to
capitulate while uncovering sexual violence which continues to affect so many
people in the world.
Just as I receive the news of
the Anna Politkovskaya award, 52 years of war are coming to an end in
my country. The bullets that took her life are the same that ended the life of
over 200 000 Colombians: the business of war has not only contaminated the
souls of those who profit from it, but it has also made our society
hardened and intolerant. The legacy of women like Anna is not to allow this to
be happening again and again. It is the one good thing we can leave behind
during our brief passage through this world.
This award is my tribute to the
Colombian women who were victims of the armed conflict in Colombia. Their
bodies were used as weapons of war, just as it happens in many other places in
the world. I have been working as a journalist for the past 20 years, covering
this violent conflict. It is time for these women to be vindicated.
We are fortunate enough to have the
gift of word, gift of writing: let it remain the backbone of our work and the
basis of hope for many.
Congratulations to Kholoud Waleed (Syria) – winner of the 2015 Anna Politkovskaya Award
Credit: Chloe Fairweather
Today, Wednesday 7th October, RAW in WAR (Reach All Women in WAR) celebrates
the incredible courage and inspiring work of Kholoud Waleed, a
journalist and editor of the underground newspaper ‘Enab Baladi’. Kholoud Waleed, co-founder of ‘Enab Baladi’ (Grapes of my country) bravely reports to the world
and to the people in Syria about the atrocities of the conflict, despite the
dangers, she and her colleagues face every day. Three of the newspaper
journalists were killed and others were detained in Syria. Kholoud Waleed’s reporting,
and ‘Enab Baladi’, form a small
island of truth and respect for the people in Syria amidst the horrors of the
In 2012 Kholoud Waleed, alongside a group of female friends, started organising demonstrations calling for democracy, free elections and human rights. The group also helped children and other family members of those who had been killed or detained. The group then founded 'Enab Baladi' – a newspaper reporting about daily life in Syria, exposing the war crimes against civilians and the ongoing oppression of independent voices. The group behind ‘Enab Baladi’, most of them women, have to hide and write under pseudonyms, and the majority are either in hiding in Syria or are refugees in Turkey and Lebanon. Khaloud and her colleagues are facing daily the threat of detention or death if the authorities find out they write for ‘Enab Baladi’.
Left: A copy of ‘Enab
Despite the danger to her life, Kholoud has worked tirelessly in order
to inform people in Syria about the atrocities and war crimes they are
suffering and to speak out against the violence the country and its citizens
are enduring. She had to go in hiding and leave Syria when three of her friends
were detained by government forces and they came looking for her.In this, she reminds us of
Anna Politkovskaya, who in the face
of grave danger to her own life, continued to write against violence and human
rights abuses against civilians in Chechnya.
Copies of ‘Enab
Baladi’ in the midst of the devastation in Syria.
Today, on the 9th
anniversary of Anna Politkovskaya’s murder,RAW
in WAR honours Kholoud Waleed
with the2015 Anna Politkovskaya Awardfor her
courage to speak out and to give a voice to the many Syrian people whose voices
cannot be heard amidst the bombing and persecution in the rapidly
disintegrating Syria. RAW in WAR marks the anniversary of Anna Politkovskaya’s murder 9
years ago today by giving the award in her name to a woman, who, like Anna,
speaks truth to power.
On accepting the Award, Kholoud
“It means a lot to me
to receive the Anna Politkovskaya Award, named after a Russian journalist who
was assassinated for exposing the Russian crimes in Chechnya to the world.
Ironically, her assassin has not been brought to justice yet, the same like the
assassin of Syria is still ruling it, after five years of brutality against the
Syrian people, who aspired for freedom and change. It is also painful to follow
in the steps of Razan Zeitouneh, and be in her own place receiving this award,
without having her by my side. Razan was kidnapped by the “Army
of Islam”, who was
supposed to protect us, the Syrians, but turned out that they too do not
tolerate free voices, who are exposing the truth about the war crimes in Syria.
This award comes at a
time when the Russian government is openly involved in the crimes that the
Assad regime commit daily against the Syrian people, and all evil powers have
joined forces to kill the Syrians, who deserve the whole world to back them,
not be partner in killing them, including ISIS, terrorists, Iranian
mercenaries, Hizbullah, and who are supported by the silence of the
The Award will be presented to Kholoud Waleed in person in March 2016 in London at RAW in WAR’s ‘Refusing to be Silenced’ event, part of the 2016 Women of the World (WOW) Festival.
On Kholoud Waleed receiving the 2015 Anna Politkovskaya Award, Elena Kudimova, sister of Anna Politkovskaya and a member of the 2015 Award Nominations Committee, said:
“I believe that Anna would have been highly satisfied and proud with our choice of a recipient for this year’s award. This brave woman from Syria, Kholoud Waleed, is doing the same dangerous work as Anna did: against all odds and in the face of threats to her own life, keeps informing the Syrian people and the world about the life and the suffering of the civilians in war torn areas. The newspaper she runs is a rare source of truthful facts for the people in Syria, who are left either in an information vacuum or are subjected to heavy state propaganda. With this award we celebrate all courageous women journalists around the world who under no circumstances stop delivering the truth to their audience and the world.”
The RAW in WAR Nominations Committee for the 2015 Anna Politkovskaya Award was deeply humbled by the determination shown by Kholoud Waleed, reflecting the spirit that Anna Politkovskaya showed in her life. RAW in WAR continues to remember the life of Anna Politkovskaya by working to support brave women human rights defenders in conflict zones throughout the world. On the Anna Politkovskaya Awards, Azar Nafisi, author, “Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books”, and a member of the Committee of Supporters for the Award, said:
“It’s quite extraordinary, as well as natural, that we should celebrate the work of Anna through celebrating other courageous women who come from such different nations, backgrounds, and speak different languages but all share a common language in their desire for freedom. Not just for themselves but for all victims of oppression.”
On receiving the Anna Politkovskaya Award, Kholoud Waleed will join a group of remarkable women human rights defenders who received the Anna Politkovskaya Award in the past, including Vian Dakhil (2014), Malala Yousafzai (2013), Marie Colvin (2012), Razan Zaitouneh (2011), Dr. Halima Bashir (2010), Leila Alikarami on behalf of the One Million Signatures Campaign for Equality in Iran (2009), Malalai Joya (2008) and Natalia Estemirova (2007).
(+44) 07951 209 575
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‘Grapes of My Country’ – A film about Kholoud Waleed
and ‘Enab Baladi’
Filmed and directed by Chloe Fairweather; Executive Producer Christina
An article about Kholoud Waleed winning
the 2015 Award in Novaya Gazete,
the Russian newspaper that
Anna Politkovskaya wrote for.
Photo from the Syrian war - The Syrian city of Homs has been destroyed by the country’s civil war.Photo: Getty Images
“SYRIANS STILL WANT FREEDOM”
KHOLOUD WALEED'S RESPONSE TO
WINNING THE 2015 AWARD
It is an honor to receive
this award in your name, eight years after evil power assassinated you to
silence the free word. A time when my country has been struck by all evil
powers to suppress those who have called for freedom and dignity in the last
Dear Anna, your steps were
followed by many Syrians who paid with their life in return for their passion
for truth. Enab Baladi, my newspaper, was co-founded by a group of young
passionate Syrians. We want to convey the atrocities committed by the Assad
regime to the world. The cost of this has been very high, as three colleagues
have been killed since then. Four of my colleagues are being held by the regime,
four other female reporters were detained and later on released. Can you
imagine the cost of truth in Syria? And this is only for one media platform as
the numbers increase every single day.
Anna, nothing much has
changed in the context of human rights since you left us, women are still
abused in most parts of the world, journalists are assassinated, human rights
activists detained, and the world is still turning a deaf ear to all that. My
colleague Razan Zaitouna, who received this award in your name in 2011 has been
disappeared, and her voice has also been silenced. No one likes free voices
This award is granted not
to me, rather to a whole group of dedicated young men and women who have
battled war through their words and reports to the world. We want to deliver
the messages of those Syrians who are surviving the war despite all types of
threats they face daily.
This award is a big
motivation for me and my colleagues to maintain our passion for truth and
continue telling the stories untold for the Syrians who continue their lives
within Syria, despite ongoing death and destruction surrounding them. The
stories of people who called for freedom and change and still aspire this, and
who have dreams that are unfulfilled.
Dear Anna, despite all the
hardships, the Syrians will continue their struggle to reach the light at
the end of this dark and scary tunnel. For the same reason you paid with your
life, so may your soul rest in peace and know that the candle you lit will
never be put out."
End the impunity: Bring those who ordered Anna's and Natalia's murders to justice
Eight years ago today, Russian investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya was murdered. Earlier this year, five men were found guilty of having committed the murder and all of them were given lengthy prison sentences. A sixth man had been sentenced already in 2012. However, those who ordered the killing and who financed it have still not been found.
Neither have the killers of Anna’s friend and the first recipient of the Anna Politkovskaya Award, Natalia Estemirova, been found. We are convinced that justice will be done only when those who ordered these murders are brought to account.
We do not know who ordered these heinous crimes. Perhaps they are high-ranking government officials or their friends, or perhaps they are people with no links to the authorities at all. But we believe that the Russian authorities lack the political will to bring to justice those who stand behind the murder of Anna and of Natalia. Both Anna and Natalia spoke truth to power and we are convinced that they were killed to silence them. To reveal the whole truth, the authorities need to identify the people who ordered Anna's and Natalia's murders.
We will continue to call for justice for both these courageous women as long as it takes. And we will remember them and their work for human rights and for justice.
To mark the anniversary of Anna Politkovskaya’s murder on 7th October 2006, and to honour Anna and other women like her in the world, RAW in WAR (Reach All Women in WAR) annually presents the Anna Politkovskaya Award to a woman human rights defender from a conflict zone in the world who, like Anna, stands up for the victims of this conflict, often at great personal risk. Yesterday, on the eve of the anniversary of Anna Politkovskaya’s murder on Tuesday 7th October, RAW in WAR honoured Vian Dakhil with the 2014 Anna Politkovskaya Award for her courage to speak out and to give a voice to the many Yazidi and Iraqi women and girls whose voices cannot be heard.
Anna Politkovskaya, the campaigning Russian journalist and outspoken government critic, exposed the brutal treatment of civilians in Chechnya and the North Caucasus at the hands of both the Russian forces and the Chechen fighters. Anna lived a life of courage and truth-telling in the face of grave danger, just like her friend and the first recipient of the Anna Politkovskaya Award, Natalia Estemirova, who was murdered on 15 July 2009.
Vian Dakhil (Iraq): Winner of the 2014 Anna Politkovskaya Award
RAW in WAR’s 2014 Anna Politkovskaya Award is awarded to Vian Dakhil from Iraq, on behalf of all Yazidi and Iraqi women besieged by Islamic State
Today, Monday 6th October, RAW in WAR (Reach All Women in WAR) celebrates the courage of Vian Dakhil, a Yazidi member of the Iraqi Parliament, who has courageously spoken out and tirelessly campaigned to protect the Yazidi people from the terror of Islamic State.
Ahead of the anniversary of Anna Politkovskaya’s murder on Tuesday 7th October,RAW in WAR honours Vian Dakhil with the 2014 Anna Politkovskaya Award for her courage to speak out and to give a voice to the many Yazidi and Iraqi women and girls whose voices cannot be heard. Vian Dakhil, the only ethnic Yazidi in the Iraqi Parliament, has bravely drawn attention to the fate of the Yazidi people and, despite being injured in a helicopter crash while delivering aid to survivors on Mt Sinjar, she continues to advocate and to mobilize support for her people, for the refugees and for those trapped in towns and villages under the regime of Islamic State.
On accepting the award Vian Dakhil said:
“It is a pleasure for anyone to be honored with an award, but it is rare to see a Yazidi person who can feel happy from the bottom of their heart, due to the fact that our girls, women and children are in captivity as hostages of the most dangerous organization in the world. I make no secret of the fact that I’m proud to be honored with your esteemed award, but the real way to honor someone is by protecting their freedom and rights. It is by bringing our prisoners back.”
The RAW in WAR Nominations Committee for the 2014 Anna Politkovskaya Award is deeply humbled by Vian Dakhil's courage to become the voice of the Yazidi community and by her determination to campaign for the protection of all Yazidi and other Iraqi women under Islamic State, despite the danger she is facing as a Yazidi woman politician opposed to Islamic State.
On Vian Dakhil receiving the 2014 Anna Politkovskaya Award, Lord Frank Judd, a member of the 2014 Award Nominations Committee, said:
“It is impossible to praise too highly the courage and integrity of the many women like Vian Dakhil who are standing firm and refusing to be cowed by the sinister, cruel and inhumane threat from Islamic State. Vian Dakhil, with her position in the Iraqi Parliament, is a fine example and a gigantic challenge to all of us who operate within relatively comfortable democracies. Our solidarity with her should be total.”
According to media reports, among those held hostage by Islamic State there are more than 5000 Yazidis, about 3000 of them women and girls. Those who managed to flee report about women and girls being raped and abused, forced to convert to Islam and traded for cash or weapons for the further expansion of Islamic State.
In her passionate call to the Iraqi Parliament in August 2014 to act and save the Yazidis, Vian Dakhil said:
“My family is being butchered, just like all Iraqis are being killed….And today, the Yazidis are being slaughtered. Brothers, away from all the political disputes, we want humanitarian solidarity. I am speaking here in the name of humanity. Save us! Save us! ….For 48 hours, 30,000 families have been besieged in the Sinjar Mountains. Without water. Without food. They are dying. Seventy babies have died so far from thirst and suffocation. Fifty elderly people have died from the deteriorating conditions. Our women are being taken as slaves and sold in the slave markets. Mr Speaker, we demand that the Iraqi parliament intervenes immediately to stop this massacre!”
Several courageous women lawyers, politicians and journalists in Iraq have been detained, disappeared or killed by Islamic State just because they were women who refused to be silenced or who dared to criticize the regime of terror. Vian Dakhil continues to use her status and influence as a politician to support and protect those women and girls who lack the means to reach out to the outside world.
By presenting Vian Dakhil with this year’s Anna Politkovskaya Award, RAW in WAR honors all women in Iraq, those detained in Mosul or elsewhere in the North, as well as the many unknown Iraqi women who are resisting Islamic State by recording life under its rule and by collecting money and humanitarian aid for those in need. Today RAW in WAR calls on the international community to do all in its power to protect the people of Iraq from the genocidal warfare that has been unleashed against the Yazidis and other minorities; to protect the women targeted by Islamic State; to end the regime of terror; and to bring stability and peace to the region.
On receiving the Anna Politkovskaya Award, Vian Dakhil will join a group of remarkable women human rights defenders who received the Anna Politkovskaya Award in the past, including Malala Yousafzai (2013), Marie Colvin (2012), Razan Zaitouneh (2011), Dr. Halima Bashir (2010), Leila Alikarami on behalf of the One Million Signatures Campaign for Equality in Iran (2009), Malalai Joya (2008) and Natalia Estemirova (2007).
Elena Kudimova's speech at the 2013 Anna Politkovskaya Award
Ladies and gentlemen: good evening!
We are here tonight in this magnificent place surrounded by a large number of courageous women. It is a tremendous privilege. Andit is important that this event focuses specifically on the courage of women. Courage is very often associated with physical strength. And as men are stronger, the courage that women display daily in many ways is overlooked.
This can range from taking physical risks as surgeons or nurses in the front line of conflicts; caring for a large family; or a disabled child with little help or financial support. This courage can make a difference to the lives of us all, not merely for what it achieves but also the example it sets and the inspiration it evokes. As Winston Churchill said: "Courage is the first of human qualities because it is the quality that guarantees all others".
We are here tonight in
this magnificent place surrounded by a large number of courageous women.
It is a tremendous privilege. Andit is important that
this event focuses specifically on the courage of women. Courage is very
often associated with physical strength. And as men are stronger, the
courage that women display daily in many ways is overlooked.
This can range from
taking physical risks as surgeons or nurses in the front line of conflicts;
caring for a large family; or a disabled child with little help or financial
support. This courage can make a difference to the lives of us all, not merely
for what it achieves but also the example it sets and the inspiration it evokes.
As Winston Churchill said: "Courage is the first of human qualities
because it is the quality that guarantees all others".
My sister, Anna
Politkovskaya's special kind of courage was displayed in the field of
journalism. And that was not only the courage to risk the bullying, the
attacks on reputation, and general antagonism that goes with writing
uncomfortable truths about prominent or powerful people. It was the courage to confront the grave risk
of severe physical harm that can result from high profile investigatory
journalism in Russia. She paid for that courage with her life.
Seven years ago this month an unidentified killer silenced her writings forever
by shooting her through the brain and the heart. This was not a random
killing: it was the work of a professional.
But let no one think
that this cold, brutal act wiped out Anna's spirit or her contribution to
humanity. As time passes, more and more people become aware of what Anna
achieved through her determined fearlessness in the cause of freedom.
Anna was the most amazing
person. To me she wasn't a journalist. She was my sister and my
friend. She was a loving mother, daughter and wife. As well as
having a ferocious intelligence she was intensely passionate about everything
she did. That made her fascinating to talk to on absolutely any subject,
whether it was the origins and future of Russian democracy or the roses she had
planted at her country house. I think everyone who met her was touched by
the spirituality which somehow made her seem unsullied by life, or even death.
Some time before she
died she was asked by her literary agent to write her biography. That
made her laugh: she was only in her 40s and didn't feel old enough. Finally
she agreed to write just five short chapters.
Each would record an incident where she ought to have died but
miraculously survived. I think, perhaps, that when you face death so
often you learn both to laugh at it, but also to appreciate life more fully and
live it more intensely. It shows Anna's zest for life that she intended to
write each chapter as a funny detective story.
We are still coping with
the aftermath of Anna's death. On Monday I shall be in Moscow at the
unveiling of a memorial plaque on the building wall of her publisher, Novaya
Gazeta. It took Anna's colleagues seven years to achieve that
gesture. But in seven years no one has
been brought to justice for her murder. At the moment we are in the
midst of a second trial which is still dragging on. Yet we remain
optimistic that it will identify some of those responsible, and are enormously
grateful for the huge efforts which the prosecutors made over the last four
years to help us to see justice done.
Anna can no longer write.
But her lifetime work lives on. And much more than that, she continues to
be an inspiration to all who value freedom. It is her spirit, and of
others like her, that will ensure that liberty will always strive to prevail
over corruption and brutality. She is the true embodiment of women's
courage. This award in the name of Anna keeps her memory alive and supports the
courage of women journalists and bloggers and activists to speak the truth,