8/06/2009

The Murder of Natalia Estemirova

Natalia Estemirova, a Russian activist who had dedicated her life to uncovering serious violations of human rights in Chechnya, was taken from a street near her home in the city of Grozny and murdered on July 15, 2009. She was seized in the morning while on her way to work, and her body, with gunshot wounds in the head and the chest, was found in the afternoon. She was a leading member of Memorial, a Russian organization, and she had been pursuing an ongoing investigation into the disappearance and murder of Chechen women, thereby putting herself into a fraught situation of fatal danger.

Since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia and its surrounding territories have been ruled, crudely and corruptly, by a collection of gangsters and brutes. Vladimir Putin, a deeply unsavory figure who wielded power as President of Russia from 2000 to 2008, and thereafter continued to harshly enforce his oppressive will as Prime Minister, has favored a blunt policy of remorseless violence against the people of Chechnya for many years, as a means of preventing them from following their own destiny. It is quite certain that Russian and Chechen authorities regarded Natalia Estemirova with strong enmity, knowing her to be in dogged opposition to their evil self-interest. Those same authorities are widely suspected of having a direct connection to her murder.

Natalia Estemirova was a woman of unusual fortitude. Through her years of determined activism, she provided a rare and courageous example to the world, valiantly choosing to continue with her worthy activities, even in the face of repeated threats to her own safety. She was faithful and unbending in her clear-eyed desire to keep doing what she firmly believed to be right. Although it remains a matter of profound sadness and utter shame that her life ended in a brazen murder, carried out by coldblooded killers whose names may never be known, her fearless actions on behalf of the truth deserve to be remembered.