|Congratulations to Kholoud Waleed (Syria) winner of the 2015 Anna Politkovskaya Award|
Credit: Chloe Fairweather
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 Baladi’.
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.
On accepting the Award, Kholoud Waleed said:
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.
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:
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).
‘Grapes of My Country’ – A film about Kholoud Waleed and ‘Enab Baladi’
Credit: Filmed and directed by Chloe Fairweather; Executive Producer Christina Asquith
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 five years.
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 Anna, unfortunately!
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."
For further information about Kholoud Waleed, the Award or the work of RAW in WAR, please contact:
(+44) 07951 209 575
(+44) 07951 864 303
A full report on Kholoud Waleed is avaliable on request.