On Thursday 6th October 2016, RAW in WAR (Reach All Women in WAR) celebrated Valentina Cherevatenko, a courageous Russian human rights and peace activist.
Ahead of the 10th anniversary of Anna Politkovskaya’s murder on Friday 7th October 2016, RAW in WAR honoured Valentina Cherevatenko, a brave Russian human rights activist dedicated to supporting civilians whose lives continue to be affected by violence in the North Caucasus, Armenia, Georgia and Ukraine. Through her organisation, “Women of the Don”, Valentina works with those, who suffer the psychological damage induced by conflict and violence in the region, despite the risk to herself and her organization.
Valentina is currently facing criminal charges for failing to register her organisation as a “foreign agent” and she is accused of knowingly receiving foreign funding. It is the first time that criminal charges have been brought under the law on “foreign agents” against an NGO in Russia and there is a serious concern from human rights groups that these charges are simply to silence Valentina for the peace building and reconciliation work she does on behalf of the survivors of armed conflict. If convicted, Valentina is facing up to two-year imprisonment. On accepting the Special Anna Politkovskaya Award, Valentina Cherevatenko said:
“Everything to do with Anna Politkovskaya, her name and her work, is terribly important for me. Being awarded the Anna Politkovskaya prize is a great honour, too. It puts many years of my peace building work and “Women of the Don’s work, as a whole, on the par with what Anna did, what she fought for and what she died for.”
“There is nothing more important than preserving peace. It doesn’t really matter where on the planet, in what country, be it Chechnya, Syria or Ukraine, bombs go off and old men, women and children die. Young people die, the country’s future, called to arms by unscrupulous politicians. Where the ruling elite cannot find an agreement, ordinary people can and should get involved. They need to look into each other’s eyes and agree to resolve all problems, all differences without wars or violence. They have to be taught this. This task falls to people engaged in peace building and to human rights activists. We must never stop. We must believe in ourselves, in the future, in getting results. I often tell a parable to future peace activists. It goes like this: Paul, the Apostle, is walking along a road, a long and dusty road, and all of a sudden he sees a little bird on the ground, right in front of him. “What are you doing here, all alone, on this dusty road?” – asks Paul.. “I am holding up the sky, can’t you see?” – answers the bird. “You, so tiny, holding up the sky that is so big, how can you possibly manage this?” “I am doing what I can!” – replies the bird. So my team and I, we too, are doing what we can in order not to allow the light of peace carried by Anna, to go out.”
The RAW in WAR Nominations Committee admires Valentina Cherevatenko for her tireless work and determination to build bridges for peace and reconciliation between people and communities in war-torn North Caucasus, Armenia, Georgia and Ukraine – despite the danger she is facing.
On both Valentina Cherevatenko and Jineth Bedoya Lima receiving the 2016 Anna Politkovskaya Award, Baron Judd of Portsea, a member of the 2016 Award Nominations Committee, said:
“Anna must never be forgotten. She was a beacon of integrity and of total commitment to truth whatever the consequences for her. Her courage was all the greater because I am certain she knew very well what was likely to happen to her. Valentina and Jineth follow in that tradition. They are both fine and challenging examples to us all. Like many others, they deserve our full and unswerving loyalty and support. Freedom and democracy can only be as good as the information and analysis which is provided by the media. Today’s generation of journalists and human rights defenders need constantly to measure themselves against the lives and standards of Anna, Valentina, Jineth and their like.”
The awards will be presented to the Valentina and Jineth in March 2017 in London at RAW in WAR’s ‘Refusing to be Silenced’ event, part of the 2017 Women of the World (WOW) Festival at the London’s Southbank Centre. RAW in WAR marks the anniversary of Anna Politkovskaya’s murder 10 years ago by giving the award in her name annually to a woman, who, like Anna, speaks truth to power.