Friday, July 17, 2009

On being an activist in Russia

Now that we have an activist as president of the United States (okay, okay—a community organizer, which is an activist with a retirement plan), it’s a useful exercise to look at what happens to activists elsewhere in the world. Iran and China have lately been in the news, but as always, Russia can give them pointers on how to silence annoying citizens.

The lady taking tea above is Natalia Estemirova, who until just the other day was a prominent human-rights advocate in Chechnya, where Russia has been running a murderous counter-insurgency campaign for nearly two decades—nearly two centuries, come to think of it. Estermirova was abducted and murdered and her body dumped in the nearby province of Ingushetia, where it was found on Wednesday. (Moscow calls these places ‘republics’, using the language of the former Soviet Union, but they are not republics in any conventional sense of the word.)

‘The news was reported to the president,’ said a Medvedev spokesman in Moscow; ‘he was outraged and gave all appropriate orders to the head of the investigations commission…’ Yeah, right. Estemirova’s corpse will join the long line of murdered activists in Russia, including her onetime friend and associate, the fearless—but now dead—journalist Anna Politkovskaya.

I doubt we’ll hear much from Obama on this subject. He has pressed the ‘reset button’, after all, and the murderous Putin-Medvedev duogarchy now is among America’s best friends. Besides, we wouldn't want to seem pushy. Blue skies! – Dan Ford

Later: here's a searing recollection of Estemirova in Foreign Policy online.


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