Razan Zaitouneh’s determined and courageous writing and truth-telling brought attention to those unable to have the world’s ear. Her voice was the heart and soul of those seeking peace and freedom in Syria. Razan’s work has deeply impressed us at RAW in WAR, as it has many around the world - including the European Parliament, which awarded her the 2011 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. But her voice has also angered those whose violence and abuse she exposed. It is with pain that we recognize that her deep humanity and urge to tell the truth and expose the injustice was the only possible reason for her abduction. Today, we urge everyone able to help ensure Razan’s release to do everything possible to secure her and her colleagues’ freedom.
In 2011, when Razan Zaitouneh learned that she had been selected for the Anna Politkovskaya Award, she wrote a letter to Anna, in which she said:
“Dear Anna, I am aware that your passion for truth and the defense of human dignity, for which you gave your life, is but a link in a chain that stretches across the world, through individuals and entire peoples, all of whom believe in everyone's right to live free of oppression, humiliation, and subjugation. …What we share in humanity transcends languages, nationalities, and borders, just as tyranny and corruption share the same essence although they differ in details. …Each step forward towards peace and justice in any part of the world benefits all humanity. I would like to remind the world that the Syrian people, who were victims to all those crimes yet still patient and persistent, are people who deserve much more than complicit silence, or timid criticism from those who have failed to refer this regime to the International Criminal Court despite acknowledging its crimes.”
VIDEO: A RAW in WAR Documentary Film: The winner of the 2011 Anna Politkovskaya Award - RAZAN ZAITOUNEH
Syria: No word on four abducted activists
A year on, no information on Douma Four
The prominent Syrian human rights defenders Razan Zaitouneh, Samira Khalil, Wa’el Hamada and Nazem Hamadi – the Douma Four—remain missing a year after their abduction, 57 organizations said today. The four were abducted in Duma, a city near Damascus under the control of armed opposition groups. They should be released immediately, the groups said.
We honoured Malala, the brave young woman from Pakistan who has courageously spoken out about the right of every girl and every boy around the world to receive an education. Defying the strict ban imposed by the Taliban on girls attending school, she refused to be silenced in the face of grave danger, just like Anna Politkovskaya did. Malala Yousafzai was only 15-years old when she was shot by the Taliban on 9 October 2012 for campaigning for education for girls.
Malala and Kailash Satyarthi, an Indian child rights activist, are two strong voices for tolerance, equal opportunities, education and civil society, pillars on which a peaceful society can be built. They stand against war and conflict, violence, abuse, hatred and ignorance.
Just one year ago, on 4 October 2014, Malala spoke at the RAW in WAR award ceremony in London, where she received the Anna Politkovskaya Award. At a time when we hear every day about unspeakable violence against children and especially girls, her words resonate even more:
“I would like to accept this award [the Anna Politkovskaya Award] on behalf of all of the women and girls in the world who are standing up for their rights against a backdrop of violence and intimidation. This is for you my sisters….
I am fortunate that people are aware of who I am because it enables me to campaign on these issues, about which I am so passionate. I have been shown great kindness. I am extremely fortunate. Many other people, no less deserving than me, have done great things to further the cause of education. They are unsung heroes.
So, I accept this award for them. I share this award with them.
The challenges may be great but – working together – I know that we will succeed. The legacy of Anna [Politkovskaya] may be the bravery which she showed, and which has helped so many other people to find bravery in themselves also.”
RAW in WAR welcomes this year’s Nobel Peace Prize Committee’s choice at a time when women and girls in India and Pakistan, as well as in Syria, Iraq and in other countries around the world, face persecution, harassment or even death if they want to have an education, if they want to have a voice and demand respect for themselves.
This year, RAW in WAR has honoured another woman, who stands up against hatred and violence like Malala does, like Anna Politkovskaya did. On 6 October, RAW in WAR awarded Vian Dakhil, the Yazidi parliamentarian in Iraq, who speaks out against the persecution of her people by Islamic State, the 2014 Anna Politkovskaya Award.
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.
Sign our petition to end the abuse and violence against women and girls in Iraq
Join us in supporting the efforts of this year's Anna Politkovskaya Award winner, Vian Dakhil, and sign our petition urging the UN Member States to take urgent steps to end the abuse and violence against women and girls in Iraq.
RAW in WAR (Reach All Women in WAR) calls on the international community, the United Nations and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon to do their utmost to stop Islamic State in Iraq and Syria from committing atrocities against the civilian population and to stop waging a war against women. Members of ethnic and religious minorities, such as the Yazidi, are being kidnapped, forced to convert to Islam, or sold as slaves and frequently killed.