Digital Workshop (Registration Required)

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Feb 26, 2021


Refusing To Be Silenced – Standing with brave women from war and conflict

  14:00-15:30 (UTC+1)
  Svetlana Alexievich, Leila Alikarami, Radhya Almutawakel, Kholoud Helmi, Friederike Behr, Mariana Katzarova

This RAW in WAR (Reach All Women in War) workshop brings together courageous women writers, journalists and human rights defenders who stand for human rights and justice in war and conflict zones around the world as well as in places of violent repression and civil strife. They are all winners of the Anna Politkovskaya Award, presented by RAW in WAR.

Our speakers are women leaders from Belarus, Iran, Syria and Yemen who shine a spotlight on the abuses against civilians in areas of conflict, on the persecution and suppression of civil society and freedom of expression and on the price of speaking truth to power in the face of grave danger.

In the midst of the Covid lockdown, when growing authoritarianism and radicalization threatens to silence the voices of truth and justice, our workshop aims to discuss and create new strategies and a plan of action for ‘radical’ solidarity, protection, justice and support for the women who risk their lives to speak the truth and refuse to be silenced.

Svetlana Alexievich (writer, Nobel Prize laureate in 2015, Anna Politkovskaya Award winner 2018, Belarus)
Radhya Almutawakel (human rights defender, co-founder of Mwatana Organisation for Human Rights, Anna Politkovskaya Award winner 2020, Yemen)
Leila Alikarami (human rights lawyer, Anna Politkovskaya Award winner 2009, Iran)
Kholoud Helmi (journalist, Anna Politkovskaya Award winner 2015, Syria)

Moderated by:
Mariana Katzarova (journalist and human rights advocate, founder of RAW in WAR, Bulgaria/UK)
Friederike Behr (human rights expert, RAW board member, Germany)


With respect to privacy and data protection, our workshops were not recorded.


Speaker Biographies:

Svetlana Alexievich
is a Belarusian writer, 2015 Nobel Prize laureate in literature and 2018 Anna Politkovskaya Award winner. She is a leader of the Belarusian democratic opposition. Svetlana Alexievich left Belarus in September 2020, after the government authorities threatened to arrest her. She is currently a Fellow of the Martin Roth Initiative at DAAD- Berlin. Svetlana Alexievich is a well-established author of Belarusian and Ukrainian parentage. She is an independent voice who, for many years, has been speaking out about civil and political injustices in the post-Soviet space. In October 2015, she won the Nobel Prize in Literature for works that the prize judges called „a monument to suffering and courage in our time.“ She created literature chronicling the great tragedies of the Soviet Union and its collapse: the Second World War, the Soviet war in Afghanistan, the Chornobyl nuclear disaster and the suicides that ensued from the death of Communism. Her first novel, The Unwomanly Face of War, published in 1985 and based on the previously untold stories of Soviet women who had fought against the Nazis in WWII, sold more than 2 million copies.

Radhya Almutawakel is a human rights defender from Yemen, co-founder of Mwatana Organisation for Human Rights and 2020 Anna Politkovskaya Award winner. Radhya will join us from Yemen. Together with her husband, Radhya founded the NGO Mwatana for Human Rights, focused on documenting violations of human rights and humanitarian law during the conflict in Yemen. In 2017, she briefed the UN Security Council about the situation in Yemen and has continued to call for a ban of arms delivery to Yemen and Saudi Arabia. In 2019 Radhya was named as one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time magazine. In February 2021, Radhya was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. She has an academic background in public relations, political science and women’s studies and before the war in Yemen she worked for the National Women’s Commission there.

Leila Alikarami is a lawyer, human rights advocate and an academic from Iran. She is the 2009 Anna Politkovskaya Award winner, on behalf of the women of Iran and the One Million Signatures campaign. Leila was an active member of Iran’s One Million Signatures Campaign for Equality, which collects signatures in support of changing discriminatory laws against women and its members are often imprisoned and persecuted by the authorities. Leila received her law degree from the University of Tehran and her PhD from SOAS, University of London. As an advocate and a lawyer, Leila works to change discriminatory laws against women and to raise awareness of the injustices faced by women in Iran and the Middle East. She has written several academic books and articles on legal issues in Iran. Many of her opinion pieces have been published by the international media. Her book, “Women and Equality in Iran” was published in 2019.

Kholoud Helmi is a journalist and a gender and media expert from Syria who, in 2011, co-founded with a group of other women journalists, the main Syrian opposition newspaper, Enab Baladi („Grapes of my country“). She is the 2015 Anna Politkovskaya Award winner. Kholoud will join us from Turkey, to which she escaped, following persecution by Syrian government forces. Kholoud believes that women are key in the areas of development, peacebuilding and stability. Before fleeing Syria, she was an eyewitness to the shooting of peaceful demonstrators, arbitrary arrests and massacres that occurred in Darayya and surrounding towns, committed by President Assad’s regime. Her brother was arrested in 2012 for helping IDPs from the city of Homs. She is the 2017 winner of the International Association’s Courage Under Fire Award for the documentary “Cries From Syria”. In 2016, Marie Claire magazine called her ‘the bravest woman in the world’. Kholoud holds an MA in media and development from SOAS, University of London, and is a Chevening scholar.

Friederike Behr is a human rights professional from Germany and a RAW in WAR Board member. She has worked for non-governmental and intergovernmental organizations on human rights in the countries of the former Soviet Union. She will lead and contribute during the workshop’s breakaway room discussions.

Mariana Katzarova (Moderator) is a journalist and a human rights advocate. Originally from Bulgaria, she was a founder of the first independent newspaper in Bulgaria in 1989, called “Democracy”. Mariana founded RAW in WAR (Reach All Women in WAR) in 2006 in the UK, after working in the war zones of Bosnia, Kosovo and Chechnya, including 10 years as the Russia Researcher for Amnesty International. Since 2007, RAW in WAR has presented the annual Anna Politkovskaya Award for women human rights defenders from war and conflict zones. (For more info see www.rawinwar.org). Mariana was also an advisor to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and in addition spent two years leading the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission’s team in the ongoing armed conflict in Eastern Ukraine. In 2020, she spent an extensive period of time in Belarus, providing advice and support to women human rights defenders and civil society.

The Anna Politkovskaya Award is presented annually by RAW in WAR (Reach All Women in War) in honour of the murdered Russian campaigning journalist Anna Politkovskaya to brave women working in war and conflict zones who speak truth to power at great personal risk.



[Preview Image Credits, clockwise from left: Kholoud Helmi/© unknown – Leila Alikarami/© unknown – Svetlana Aleksievich/© unknown – Radhya Almutawakel/© unknown – Friederike Behr/© unknown – Mariana Katzarova/© unknown]

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