Born in 1948, Tamara Chikunova heads Mothers Against the Death Penalty and Torture. Her appeals to the public, government, and the international community and open confrontations with persistent violence have had a major impact in Uzbekistan, where the death penalty is widely used and torture is regularly administered. She is an active member of the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty, which she helped establish in May 2002.
Tamara Chikunova’s son (28) was sentenced to death in Uzbekistan in 1999 and executed in 2000. She founded Mothers Against the Death Penalty and Torture in 2000. In her view, "The death penalty is a deficiency of humanity in the foundations of society and the state . . . [It] bears in itself not only the possibility of a mistake, but breaks the most important inalienable right of each person—the right to life." A single, retired woman without means, Tamara struggles tirelessly to enter into dialogue with the State on the abolishment of the death penalty in Uzbekistan. The government impedes Tamara's efforts to establish a dialogue and to garner support. "Opportunities for action in the territory of Uzbekistan are very small. State newspapers are silent about our initiatives." Undaunted, she works in cooperation with many major human rights organizations, the United Nations, and an international network of sympathizers. Because of her efforts, people illegally sentenced to death now have hope to return to their families. In many cases, the death penalty has been commuted to a prison term; unjust accusations have been retracted; and the unjustly accused have been released. Despite her immense personal loss, she responds to the pain of others: "People [who] have survived the death sentence are serving time in prisons, and those sitting in cells for the condemned call me 'Mother.' For me they are children, children whose lives need to be protected. I hope that we can do that and that not only the State of Uzbekistan will eliminate the death penalty, but that this disgraceful punishment will be eliminated all over the world."
Mothers Against the Death Penalty and Torture World Coalition Against the Death Penalty