Russian Federation: Maya Shovkhalova

We condemn acts of terrorism irrespectively of whether they are committed by groups of bandits or by the Russian military.” (From the appeal of Chechen peace advocates to the world community)

— Maya Shovkhalova

Having suffered Stalin's deportation of the Chechen people to Central Asia, Maya Shovkhalova (born 1936) returned to Grozny in 1958. She graduated from the Tbilisi Music Conservatory. In the 1990s, she was a member of the Commission on Rehabilitation of Victims of the 1944-1956 Repressions in Chechnya. Since the beginning of the Russian-Chechen armed conflict, Maya has been engaged in anti-war activism, cooperating with international as well as Russian NGOs. She is also head of the NGO Iberia which focuses on the issues of demining and banning of land mines.

In February 1944, during the Soviet-staged deportation of the Chechen and Ingush peoples to Central Asia, a horrible tragedy occurred: 700 inhabitants of Khaibakh, a Chechen village high in the mountains, were burned alive in a local club building by a Soviet punitive detachment. It was not until the 1990s that this barbarous act was investigated. Maya Shovkhalova played an important role in the work of the Khaibakh Investigation Commission which publicized this and other crimes against humanity perpetrated by Stalin. The nascent democratic changes in the Soviet Union, coupled with the committed work of human rights activists in revealing the atrocities of the communist regime, gave hope that such tragedies would never be repeated. But the developments leading up to the Russian-Chechen conflict proved these hopes to be an illusion. During the first military campaign, Maya helped care for the wounded, and took part in negotiations between Chechen President Dudaev's representatives and the Russian mothers who called for an end to the savage war and their sons' return home. The efforts of these peace advocates, however, were doomed to failure. Maya has nonetheless succeeded in making her contribution to informing the world community about the genocide of her people during the two Russian-Chechen wars waged between 1994 and 2004. She unceasingly continues her numerous and diverse human rights advocacy activities, cooperating with both all-Russian and international NGOs. Thanks to her and her colleagues' work, a great number of people all over the world have learned about the real state of affairs in Chechnya, about the everyday violations of the most fundamental human rights, and about the incidents of mass slaughter of the civilian population which are still being concealed by the authorities.

Iberia Yaltinskaya initsyativa za mir v Chechnie (Yimc)