Russische Föderation: Toita Yunusova

I cannot conceive of a higher aim for myself than helping orphaned and disabled children who are the victims of the cruel war in the Republic of Chechnya.

— Toita Yunusova

Since 1995 Toita Yunusova (born 1966) has actively participated in the anti-war movement trying to stop the bloodshed in Chechnya. She is a peace activist and a member of the NGO Ekho Voiny (Echo of War). Working on humanitarian projects to help refugees in the Caucasus region and cooperating with Russian NGOs fighting for a peaceful solution to the Chechen problem, Toita has collected photo and video materials which she hopes will become evidence of war crimes and human rights violations in Chechnya.

When in December 1994 the Russian-Chechen war broke out, Toita was visiting her relatives in Volgograd (Russia). On coming back home to Ingushetia, she immediately joined the anti-war movement. She decided that she could not remain idle; she had to act. Her activities were varied–she fed orphaned children, helped Russian mothers find their soldier sons, provided humanitarian aid to refugees, took part in anti-war demonstrations, and organized peace and relief initiatives. She became adept at operating a video camera in order to show the entire world what she herself saw in Chechnya. She always took along her camera with herself in order to document war episodes, cases of human rights violations, and war crimes. She did what she could, spreading the atrocious truth about the war. In the archives of the anti-war NGO Echo of war, to which Toita belongs, there are more than 200 video cassettes and more than 2000 photographs bearing witness to the horrors of the war in Chechnya. Toita hopes that some day they will become evidence in lawsuits against those who started the bloody war and those who are guilty of killing some 100,000 innocent people in Chechnya. In conducting her work, Toita has repeatedly risked her life. In November 1999, having escaped from the air raid over Grozny, she came to the village of Alkhan-Yurt. Instead of finding refuge, she found herself in the epicenter of the most atrocious war actions. The Russian troops launched an attack on the village with intensive bombing and artillery fire. Within a few hours, half the village lay in ruins and was reduced to ashes. Dozens of civilians died. Having miraculously escaped death, Toita filmed the events with her video camera. Later the video was passed on to the media so that the whole world could see the carpet bombing of a peaceful Chechen village.

Ekho Voiny (Echo of War)