On 7th October 2015, RAW in WAR (Reach All Women in WAR) celebrated 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 war.
In 2012, alongside a group of female friends, Kholoud Waleed 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’.
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.
On the 9th anniversary of Anna Politkovskaya’s murder, RAW in WAR honoured Kholoud Waleed with the 2015 Anna Politkovskaya Award for 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 by giving the award in her name to a woman, who, like Anna, speaks truth to power.
On accepting the Award, Kholoud Waleed said:
“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 international community.”
The award was presented to Kholoud Waleed in person at RAW in WAR’s ‘Refusing to be Silenced’ event, part of the 2016 Women of the World (WOW) Festival in London.
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.”