Head of the TIHR Farid Tukhbatullin on the 2021 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders and Soltan Achilova’s nomination

On 18 January, 2021 it transpired that the Turkmen independent journalist Soltan Achilova was selected as a Finalist for the 2021 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders.

Except Soltan Achilova, human rights defenders Loujain Al Hathloul from Saudi Arabia and Yu Wensheng from China were also selected as Finalists.

Farid Tukhbatullin, Chaiperson of the Turkmen Initiative for Human Rights, has told us about the Award and why Soltan Achilova’s nomination is so important not only for her, but for all residents of Turkmenistan.

Soltan Achilova

“Chronicles of Turkmenistan”: What is the aim of the Martin Ennals Award and what is it given for?

FT: The Award was first given out in 1994 to a Chinese human rights defender Harry Wu (China) and has been given out once a year since then.

Regrettably, there are quite a few countries in the world where authoritarian regimes are violating fundamental rights and freedoms of their own citizens.There are activists who, despite serious risks, are fighting against the policies pursued by the authorities.

Many of human rights defenders are persecuted, harassed, imprisoned and even killed.The objective of the Martin Ennals Award is to provide support and recognition to defenders at risk from all over the world.

This is the most prestigious award for the human rights movement and for this reason it is sometimes referred to as “the Nobel Prize for human rights”.

“Chronicles of Turkmenistan”: Why was Soltan Achilova nominated as a Finalist?

FT: Turkmenistan is one of the most repressive countries in the world.Soltan Achilova is one of the most renowned and courageous reporters and human rights defenders in Turkmenistan.

For the past 30 years she has shown exceptional and consistent commitment defending the rights of Turkmen citizens.She lost her husband and her son.Her two family homes were demolished as part of the Ashgabat reconstruction.

These plots of land, where once stood her family home, have been flattened and are still lying empty for about 15 years later.Soltan cannot get her houses or her son back, but she continues her ongoing battle to make sure other people do not share the same fate.

When my colleagues and I discussed the possibility of nominating one of our Turkmen activists for the international award, we decided that Achilova deserved it.Soltan’s nomination was initiated by Human Rights Watch and the TIHR.

As far as I am aware, several dozen human rights defenders from different countries have been nominated and Soltan Achilova is one of the three Finalists selected by the Jury as most outstanding among prominent activists..

“Chronicles of Turkmenistan”: What does Achilova’s nomination mean for Turkmenistan? Will it help to attract the attention of the global community to problems in Turkmenistan?

FT: Definitely!Under current circumstances with no mechanisms available to appeal directly to the authorities, and no mechanism whereby authorities are obliged to respond to citizens’ appeals by citizens, we can only rely on the international community represented by the UN, OSCE, the EU and others.

International recognition of her contribution as a human rights defender is one way to remind the world, through major media, of Turkmenistan’s serious problems with democracy and our appalling human rights record.

For Soltan Achilova, the nomination alone provides a burst of moral support.What matters is not just her selection as a finalist, but the feedback from many Turkmen residents and the international community who all express their support and admiration of her bravery and resilience.

We hope that the threats, persecution and assaults to which she is regularly subjected to by the law enforcement authorities will stop.

“Chronicles of Turkmenistan”: When will the winner be announced and will the Award Ceremony be livestreamed?

FT: The Award ceremony and the announcement of the 2021 Laureate and Finalists is scheduled to take place on 11 February 2021 in Geneva.Unfortunately, because of the pandemic all events this year, including briefings, meetings with high-ranking officials of international organizations, journalists, experts and diplomats will be held online.

However, in no way will it undermine the prestige of the Award and the selection of our friend and colleague as a finalist.

The post Head of the TIHR Farid Tukhbatullin on the 2021 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders and Soltan Achilova’s nomination first appeared on Chronicles of Turkmenistan.

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