Posted on July 20, 2009


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Jasmina Tesanovic

On 15 July Natalya Estemirova, 50, was kidnapped and murdered by
unknown assailants in the Chechen capital Grozny. The mother-of-one
worked for the human rights organisation Memorial and was a close
friend of the journalist Anna Politkovskaya, also murdered in 2006.

A human rights activist is killed like a dog, executed, dumped and
humiliated in front of the eyes of a million people, who know that
what she was saying was true, right, honest and proper.

Because, you see, WE ALL DO KNOW THAT. Good and bad guys know
Natalya was telling the truth, in Russia, in Chechnya, in US in Europe.
And yet we all stay silent about her death. Most of us turn the head the
other way, as if it is none of our business, as if it is inevitable,
as if it were somebody else’ s world.

Presidents sometimes say: a serious inquiry should be done in this
case. Violence on journalists is not permitted. How could they say
otherwise? Today when words count almost nothing compared to the
escalating violence, to the human annihilation.

Where are the movie stars, those celebrities who adopt poor children,
sing songs in the deserts, catwalk all the politically correct arenas?
Why don’t the superstars for once raise their voice and protect ONE
peaceful human rights activist — who in her or his life has done
more than the whole constellation of stars shining from their heaven
on the global poor?

Where is the solidarity, the everyday culture of us normal human
beings, who know that the freedom to behave humanely, with all those
habeus corpus human rights, is challenged every day in the streets, in
the workplaces — not only in wars, battlefields, mass graves? Why
don’t people of any city flock out to the squares as they did for the
death of Michael Jackson, or some other mass media idol?
Have we grown so stupid and blind to allow assassinations to be part
of our daily life? Is this our present-day normality, and if so, what
of our future?

When I hear Natalya speaking, I have no cultural, racial or language
misunderstandings to bridge. I know exactly what she is saying, and to
whom she is appealing. She is telling us just like Anna Politkovskaya
and many other humanist activists, to live in truth, band together
and defend the common denominator of basic human rights. You don’t
need to be Russian or speak Russian to understand that we are all in
the same boat.

The abuse of civilians by an armed shadow state within the state is
happening everywhere. Democratic regimes have abandoned state control
over their military machines; the modern gunmen are privatized,
offshored, clandestine and deniable. The best voices, the best
actions come not from politicians but from relentless activists,
journalists, lawyers. These are the Hypatias of 21 first century: the
voices of reason and science. They are not gurus, they are not
visionaries, they are not leaders, they are not stars. They bear
witness with their lives and write what they know first hand. We must
be clear and forthright about what it means to all of us, when
assassins burn their books and bodies, as witches, as testimonies of
uncomfortable truths.