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Estemirova, Natalya

Abstract and Keywords

Natalya Estemirova (1958–2009) was a human rights activist, a journalist, and a teacher who was abducted and killed in 2009 after working on stories of human rights abuses by the Russian government in Chechnya.

Keywords: human rights activist, award-winning journalist, investigative journalism, Chechnya

Natalya Estemirova (1958–2009) was born on February 28, 1958, in Sverdlovsk Oblast, Soviet Union, and died on July 15, 2009, at the age of 51 in Gazi-Yurt, Ingushetia, Russia. Her parents were of Russian and Chechen heritage. She spent her early life in the teaching profession, having graduated from Grozny University with a degree in history. She taught history in high school until 1998. During her teaching career she also began to work in investigative journalism, including working at local newspapers and completing at least 13 documentaries about Russian atrocities. After the beginning of the Second Chechen War, in 1999, she began documenting human rights violations against civilians during the conflict. She was also a well-known photojournalist. The loss of her husband, who was a police officer, may have served as the impetus in her desire to provide healing to others.

She received many awards for her work, including the Right Livelihood Award in 2004, the Robert Schuman Medal in 2005, and the first Anna Politkovskaya Award, in October 2007, given by an organization called Reach All Women in War (RAW), which supports women human rights defenders in times of war and other conflicts. Estemirova investigated both the unsolved murder of Anna Politkovskay in 2006 and the death of Stanislav Markelov, a human rights lawyer who died in 2009.

She provided much of the information for stories written by Anna Politkovskay.

Estemirova was representing an organization called the Memorial Human Rights Center at the time of her abduction and murder. She was investigating hundreds of cases of alleged kidnappings, torture, and killings by Russian-government forces in Chechnya. She left behind a daughter. No one has been prosecuted for her murder.