Today, Thursday 6th October, RAW in WAR (Reach All Women in WAR) celebrates the courage of Tetiana Sokolova, a courageous midwife from the city of Mariupol, in Eastern Ukraine, and Svetlana Gannushkina, a brave human rights defender from Moscow, in the Russian Federation..
Ahead of the 16th anniversary of Anna Politkovskaya’s murder on Friday 7th October, RAW in WAR honours Tetiana Sokolova and Svetlana Gannushkina with the 2022 Anna Politkovskaya Award for their bravery in speaking out, and in defying injustice, violence and war crimes in the context of the ongoing war in Ukraine.
The RAW in WAR Nominations Committee for the 2022 Anna Politkovskaya Award is deeply humbled by the selfless and determined persistence with which both women, each in their own area of work, and despite the great personal risk to themselves, have stood up for humanity amidst grave human rights violations, crimes against humanity and war crimes, committed, as we speak, across Ukraine and the brutal repression to silence dissent and opposition to the war, waged by the Russian authorities.
On announcing the winners of the 2022 Anna Politkovskaya Award, Belarusian writer and Nobel Prize laureate, Svetlana Alexievich, 2018 Anna Politkovskaya Award winner and a member of the 2022 Award Nominations Committee, said:
“We all thought that what Anya Politkovskaya did was already history, it was over. No one would ever need to make that kind of sacrifice again. But now we are living at a time when everything that Politkovskaya wrote about is once again part of our lives. And again, there are wonderful women who have the courage to stand up to it. We have chosen just two of them today – Svetlana Gannushkina and Tetiana Sokolova. Svetlana Gannushkina is someone who has dedicated her whole life to saving people. Recently, on her 80th birthday, she stood in the square once again to say, ‘No to the war in Ukraine and yes to freedom in Russia’. She was arrested, but not charged with a criminal offence, as is now the custom in Russia, probably only because even the current Putin regime is ashamed of putting our conscience behind bars.
Our second heroine is Tetiana Sokolova. Working in the basement of a wrecked maternity hospital in Mariupol, she did not abandon her post and under the never-ending shelling delivered babies to women who came on their own, or who were found among the rubble and brought to her from across the bombed-out city. Thanks to her efforts, 27 babies were born in that basement.
Today we thank Svetlana and Tetiana, we tell them of our admiration. We honour the courage and fearlessness of these women who chose the path of good, the path of light, who set an example. By honouring them, we honour all those who are defending life today.”
For two months, between 24 February, when Russia invaded Ukraine, and 20 April, Tetiana Sokolova supported women giving birth under the constant shelling and bombardmentsof Mariupol Maternity Hospital No. 2 and the whole city of Mariupol. She worked in the hospital basement, under dangerous and extremely dire conditions, helping to deliver 27 babies and saving the lives of many mothers and children. Despite the bombardments, she and her three women doctor colleagues, decided to remain and carry on their work in the hospital, even performing caesareans with the help just of the light from mobile phones. She later described how cold the basement was, how unsuitable for women giving birth, with a lack of electricity, equipment, medication or even basics such as baby formula.
She eventually fled Mariupol in a windowless old car, because of the deteriorating and life-threatening health of her husband, in search of a specialized medical help for his poor heart condition. They ended up in Lviv in Western Ukraine, where they found refuge. In Lviv, Tetiana is continuing her work, this time with a charity, Future For Children Foundation, to support the children of Mariupol.
On accepting the award, Tetiana Sokolova said:
“I am very grateful for being given the Anna Politkovskaya Award. I feel very honoured and moved. This courageous journalist and writer, with a keen sense of justice, opposed war and terror throughout her work. She wanted to protect the world from evil, and she gave her remarkable life for it.
I want very much to tell the whole world how, in the basement of the ruined maternity hospital in Mariupol, 27 babies were born, under bombardment, shelling, Grad rocket blasts, thanks to the courage and steadfastness of their mothers. I want to mention our small medical team of 4 women who remained true to themselves, who stayed there in the basement to help women in childbirth so that good could triumph over evil, so that new life could spring up amidst death and destruction.
Our work may not be on the same scale as Anna Politkovskaya’s struggle, but I really want to believe that these 27 new-borns will grow into journalists and writers, radiant and courageous people, bringing light and goodness to this world, in which so much evil still exists.
I am lucky to have survived and to be able to tell people about this war, urging them to love and not to kill.“
The war in Ukraine would have certainly had its own terrifying meaning for Anna, if she were alive today. Anna Politkovskaya was half-Russian and half-Ukrainian herself. On the Ukrainian side, she and her sister, Elena, descended from the family of the famous Ukrainian ruler and national hero of the struggle for Ukrainian independence from Poland and Russia in the 18th century, Ivan Mazepa. If Anna were alive today, Russia’s invasion and the war in Ukraine, would have been especially painful for her personally. But no doubt, she would have probably been there – reporting from the rubble of Mariupol, under the shelling and bombardments, about the plight of the civilians, or standing up on Red Square in Moscow to demand an end to the war and the release of all prisoners of conscience in Russia.
Svetlana Gannushkina, one of the most respected human rights defenders in Russia, whose life has been threatened many times over the years, stood up against the war in Ukraine from the very first day. On her 80th birthday in March 2022, she demonstrated against the war on Red Square in Moscow, an act for which she was arbitrarily detained, charged for attending an anti-war protest and later found guilty of violations of the law on public assemblies. She is a member of the Board of Memorial Society and is also the founder of Civic Assistance Committee – both organizations were branded as “foreign agents” in Russia and “Memorial” was closed down at the end of 2021. Svetlana Gannushkina has bravely worked in all wars and armed conflicts in the post-Soviet space – from Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, between Azerbaijan and Armenia, through the two Chechen wars and is now continuing to support the refugees from the war in Ukraine and to speak up against the war, while risking imprisonment and persecution by the Russian government. Svetlana Gannushkina was a close colleague of Anna Politkovskaya and they often worked together during the war in Chechnya.
On accepting the 2022 Anna Politkovskaya Award, Svetlana Gannushkina said:
“To receive the award named after Anya Politkovskaya – someone very dear to my heart, is a great and, perhaps, a not entirely deserved honour. I met Anya in August 1996, during the first Chechen war and in relation to the war. All our contacts, in one way or another, had something to do with that war.
Her first articles about Chechnya were based on our materials and conversations with refugees in our ‘Civic Assistance Committee’. Her notes on women at war, called ‘Alien War, or Life Behind the Barrier’, which Anya passed on to me were published by us as part of the ‘Memorial’ programme. We travelled together to refugee camps in Ingushetia in late December 2002 and to Chechnya, where housing had not yet been restored for Chechens to return to.We were trying to prevent this emergency relocation of people in wintertime. The Chechen Republic government building was blown up 15 minutes after we left it.
Anya’s last article, in August 2006, was based on my publication ‘Lads Were Recruited at the Seaside’ – about the terrible provocation in Khasavyurt where they’d invited 20 young lads to go to the seaside and “talk about the future of Chechnya”, dressed them up in military uniforms and shot them. Four of them survived and were declared insurgency fighters. Anya’s article helped to some extent to protect families of the survivors and those who died as a result of persecution.
And now another war brings us back together – an even more brutal and absurd war than the Chechen one. How can I dare to stand next to Tetiana Sokolova, a courageous witness to what is happening in Ukraine right now? Well, I shall try to talk about what I consider most important right now, and I should be grateful if I am heard.“
On receiving the Anna Politkovskaya Award, Tetiana Sokolova and Svetlana Gannushkina will join a group of remarkable women human rights defenders who received the Anna Politkovskaya Award in the past, including Fawzia Koofi (2021), Radhya Almatawakel (2020), Alex Crawford (2019), Binalakshmi Nepram (2018) and Svetlana Alexievich (2018), Gulalai Ismail (2017) and Gauri Lankesh (2017), Jineth Bedoya Lima (2016) and Valentina Cherevatenko (2016), Kholoud Waleed (2015), 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).
NOTES TO EDITORS
Friday, 7th October marks the 16th anniversary of the murder of Anna Politkovskaya, the campaigning Russian journalist and outspoken government critic, who exposed the brutal treatment of civilians in Chechnya, at the hands of both the Russian forces and the Moscow-supported Chechen officials. Despite an on-going investigation into her murder, those who ordered her murder have still not been brought to justice 16 years on. The impunity continues.
To mark the anniversary of Anna Politkovskaya’s murder 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, often at great personal risk.
The awards will be presented to the winners in London, in March 2023, at RAW in WAR’s ‘Refusing to be Silenced’ event, part of the 2023 Women of the World (WOW) Festival at London’s Southbank Centre.
1. RAW IN WAR
RAW in WAR (Reach All Women in WAR) is an international human rights NGO supporting women human rights defenders and women and girl victims of war and conflict around the world. RAW in WAR aims to:
- Support women human rights defenders, working in countries in war and conflict, and help end abuse and persecution against them.
- Work directly with women who are active in their communities in order to strengthen and enable their work on behalf of women and girl victims of conflict.
- Carry out its work in areas of conflict, or “forgotten conflict”, where there is limited, or no support from the major humanitarian agencies and organizations.
Mariana Katzarova founded RAW in WAR (Reach All Women in WAR) in 2006, after working as a journalist and human rights advocate in the war zones of Bosnia, Kosovo and Chechnya, including 10 years as the Russia Researcher for Amnesty International. Most recently, she led the mandate of the UN OHCHR Examination of the human rights situation in Belarus between 2021-2022. Between 2014-2016, she led the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission’s team in Donbas, Eastern Ukraine, during the armed conflict. Following the murder of her friend and colleague, Anna Politkovskaya, on 7th October 2006 in Moscow, Mariana and RAW set up the annual Anna Politkovskaya Award.
2. ABOUT THE WINNERS
Tetiana Sokolova was born in 1958 in Brest, in the then Belarusian Republic of the Soviet Union. When she was three years old, her mother moved with her and her older brother to Mariupol, in Eastern Ukraine, then also part of the Soviet Union. Tetiana finished medical school in Mariupol with excellence but decided not to continue her studies to become a medical doctor and instead became a midwife when she was 19. She had worked in this profession, and at the same Maternity Hospital No 2 for more than 40 years when, on 24 February 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine. Tetiana Sokolova remained in Mariupol until 20 April 2022 to support mothers and children in the Maternity Hospital No.2 and helped deliver 27 babies in a basement under constant bombardment. She is currently living in Lviv in Western Ukraine, where she is working with a charity, Future For Children Foundation, to support the children of Mariupol.
Svetlana Gannushkina is a well-known human rights defender from Russia, whose life has been threatened many times over the years. She has received numerous international awards for her tireless work defending and protecting the rights of refugees, migrants and victims of human rights violations in Russia, or fleeing Russia. She is a member of the Board of Memorial Society and is also heading the Civic Assistance Committee – both organizations were branded as “foreign agents” in Russia and “Memorial” was closed down at the end of 2021. Svetlana Gannushkina has bravely worked in all wars and armed conflicts in the post-Soviet space – from the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia, through the two Chechen wars and is now continuing to support the refugees from the war in Ukraine and to speak up against the war, while risking imprisonment and persecution by the Russian government. Svetlana Gannushkina was a close colleague of Anna Politkovskaya and they often worked together during the war in Chechnya.
Svetlana Gannushkina was born in Moscow in 1942. She studied mathematics at Moscow State University and worked for about 30 years as a lecturer, and then professor, of mathematics at the Russian State University of Humanities (while she worked there, the university changed its name). During these years, she was interested in politics and human rights as a concerned citizen and was active in her university, raising her voice against antisemitism, in support of colleagues and students, who faced discrimination.
In 1988, after a conflict broke out in Nagorno-Karabakh, she became a member of an international working group, actively involved in mediating the release of detainees. She followed the development of the first independent political movements in the Soviet Union and – on the basis of her support for the people from then still Soviet Armenia and Azerbaijan – she founded the Civic Assistance Committee, a movement set up to show solidarity among different ethnic groups in the Soviet Union and to support people in need. Today, she still heads the Committee, which has developed into a widely-respected NGO, that supports refugees and migrants in Russia as well as refugees from Russia. In the early 90s, she was one of the founders of the Memorial Human Rights Centre, a part of Memorial Society, a group of organisations and activists, working to reveal the crimes of the Soviet Past and to support its victims, as well as working to stop current human rights violations, including during the conflict in Chechnya. She and her colleagues supported internally displaced people from the first and second Chechen conflicts and she founded the Russia-wide network Migration and Law, together with lawyers and civil society organizations across Russia, to provide legal aid for refugees and migrants.
While she has been highly critical of the Russian government, she nevertheless joined the Human Rights Council under the Russian President in 2002, using her membership in this body to bring cases of human rights violations directly to the attention of the president and to advocate for better laws on refugees and migrants. In 2015, her organization Civic Assistance Committee was labelled a “foreign agent” and closed down in Russia, similarly to Memorial Society. There have been several (and finally successful) attempts to remove her organization from the premises it used in the centre of Moscow, where refugees and migrants could find legal and psychological help and also humanitarian aid, warm clothes and shoes. She and her colleagues set up a group of volunteers, who organised Russian language classes for refugees, entertainment for refugee children and lobbied for children of migrants and refugees to be able to go to school.
The lawyers of the Committee helped thousands of refugees and migrants to defend their rights in front of Russian courts as well as at the European Court of Human Rights. Svetlana Gannushkina also lobbied for the protection of Chechen asylum seekers in European countries, providing background information on the risks, Chechen refugees might face, if returned to Russia. Svetlana Gannushkina demonstrated against human rights violations during the armed conflict in Chechnya and in March this year against Russia’s war in Ukraine. On her 80th birthday, she was detained on the Red Square for her protesting against the war and was later tried.
3. AVAILABLE FOR INTERVIEWS (pictures on demand):
- Tetiana Sokolova – 2022 Award winner (Ukraine)
- Svetlana Gannushkina – 2022 Award winner (Russian Federation)
- Svetlana Alexievich – 2018 Award winner (Belarus)
- Mariana Katzarova – RAW in WAR Founder
A group of more than 100 influential cultural and political leaders joined the Committee of Supporters for the RAW in WAR Anna Politkovskaya Award. Among them are:
Nobel Women’s Initiative, Mairead Maguire (Nobel Peace Prize Laureate), Betty Williams (Nobel Peace Prize Laureate), Jody Williams (Nobel Peace Prize Laureate), Shirin Ebadi (Nobel Peace Prize Laureate), Rigoberta Menchú Tum (Nobel Peace Prize Laureate), Archbishop Desmond Tutu (Nobel Peace Prize Laureate), Tatiana Yankelevich, Vaclav Havel, Jon Snow, John Pilger, Amy Goodman, Jeremy Bowen, Andre Glucksmann, Gloria Steinem, Sergey Kovalyov, Alexei Simonov, Vladimir Bukovsky, Svetlana Gannushkina, Lyudmila Alekseeva, Karinna Moskalenko, Lyse Doucet, Lindsey Hilsum, Gillian Slovo, Eva Hoffman, Adam Michnik, Oleg Panfilov, Tom Stoppard, Bernard-Henri Lévy, Natasha Kandic, Elisabeth Rehn, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Mariane Pearl, Azar Nafisi, Asma Jahangir, Carl Gershman, Hina Jilani, Susan Sarandon, Jane Birkin, Sophie Shihab, Naomi Klein, Sister Helen Prejean, Ariel Dorfman, Vanessa Redgrave, Eve Ensler, Michael Cunningham, John Sweeney, Jonathan Schell, Noam Chomsky, Marina Litvinenko, Lucy Ash, Sussan Deyhim, Heidi Bradner, Desmond O’Malley, Anne Nivat, Annabel Markova, Lord Frank Judd, Lord Nicolas Rea, Lord Anthony Giddens, Lord Nazir Ahmed, Baroness Molly Meacher, Baroness Vivien Stern, Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, Dame Evelyn Glennie, Yakin Erturk, Elena Kudimova, Andrey Nekrasov, Meglena Kuneva, Peter Gabriel, Stina Scott, Anna Stavitskaya, Dubravka Ugresic, Katrina vanden Heuvel, Victor Navasky, Holly Near, Joan Baez, Elizabeth Frank, Elizabeth Kostova, Bill Bowring, Irena Grudzinska Gross, Monica Ali, Isa Blyden, Nayereh Tohidi, Claire Bertschinger, Tsvetana Maneva, Lyse Doucet, Lindsey Hilsum and others.
For the full list of the Committee of Supporters to the Anna Politkovskaya Award please see: http://www.rawinwar.org/supporters/
FOR INTERVIEWS, PICTURES, PRESS ADVISORY OR FURTHER INFORMATION, PLEASE CONTACT:
- Mariana Katzarova on +44 (0) 77 65 66 24 77 WhatsApp/Signal or media@wordpress
- Nerys Lee on +44 20 72 63 24 64 or email@example.com
More information available at: www.rawinwar.org
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/RAWinWAR
- Twitter: @RawinWar (https://twitter.com/RawinWar)
- @Refuse2beSilent (https://twitter.com/Refuse2beSilent)