Jasmina Tešanović: "The Murder of Natalya Estemirova."


Image above: Natalya Estemirova, courtesy Human Rights Watch. The following guest essay was written by Jasmina Tešanović. Full text of essay continues after the jump, along with links to previous works by her shared on Boing Boing. See also this related New York Times piece, written by a journalist who knew Ms. Estemirova.

On 15 July Natalya Estemirova, 50, was kidnapped and murdered by unknown assailants in the Chechen capital Grozny. The mother-of-one worked for the human rights organisation Memorial and was a close friend of the journalist Anna Politkovskaya, also murdered in 2006.

A human rights activist is killed like a dog, executed, dumped and humiliated in front of the eyes of a million people, who know that what she was saying was true, right, honest and proper.

Because, you see, WE ALL DO KNOW THAT. Good and bad guys know Natalya was telling the truth, in Russia, in Chechnya, in US in Europe. And yet we all stay silent about her death. Most of us turn the head the other way, as if it is none of our business, as if it is inevitable, as if it were somebody else's world.

Presidents sometimes say: a serious inquiry should be done in this case. Violence on journalists is not permitted. How could they say otherwise? Today when words count almost nothing compared to the escalating violence, to the human annihilation.

Where are the movie stars, those celebrities who adopt poor children, sing songs in the deserts, catwalk all the politically correct arenas? Why don't the superstars for once raise their voice and protect ONE peaceful human rights activist -- who in her or his life has done more than the whole constellation of stars shining from their heaven on the global poor?

Where is the solidarity, the everyday culture of us normal human beings, who know that the freedom to behave humanely, with all those habeus corpus human rights, is challenged every day in the streets, in the workplaces -- not only in wars, battlefields, mass graves? Why don't people of any city flock out to the squares as they did for the death of Michael Jackson, or some other mass media idol? Have we grown so stupid and blind to allow assassinations to be part of our daily life? Is this our present-day normality, and if so, what of our future?

When I hear Natalya speaking, I have no cultural, racial or language misunderstandings to bridge. I know exactly what she is saying, and to whom she is appealing. She is telling us just like Anna Politkovskaya and many other humanist activists, to live in truth, band together and defend the common denominator of basic human rights. You don't need to be Russian or speak Russian to understand that we are all in the same boat.

The abuse of civilians by an armed shadow state within the state is happening everywhere. Democratic regimes have abandoned state control over their military machines; the modern gunmen are privatized, offshored, clandestine and deniable. The best voices, the best actions come not from politicians but from relentless activists, journalists, lawyers. These are the Hypatias of 21 first century: the voices of reason and science. They are not gurus, they are not visionaries, they are not leaders, they are not stars. They bear witness with their lives and write what they know first hand. We must be clear and forthright about what it means to all of us, when assassins burn their books and bodies, as witches, as testimonies of uncomfortable truths.

Jasmina Tešanović is an author, filmmaker, and wandering thinker who shares her thoughts with BoingBoing from time to time. Email: politicalidiot at yahoo dot com. Her blog is here.

Previous essays by Jasmina Tešanović on BoingBoing:

- Less Than Human
- Earthquake in Italy
- 10 years after NATO bombings of Serbia
- Made in Catalunya / Lou and Laurie
- Dragan Dabic Defeats Radovan Karadzic
- Who was Dragan David Dabic?
- My neighbor Radovan Karadzic
- The Day After / Kosovo
- State of Emergency
- Kosovo
- Christmas in Serbia
- Neonazism in Serbia
- Korea - South, not North.
- "I heard they are making a movie on her life."
- Serbia and the Flames
- Return to Srebenica
- Sagmeister in Belgrade
- What About the Russians?
- Milan Martic sentenced in Hague
- Mothers of Mass Graves
- Hope for Serbia
- Stelarc in Ritopek
- Sarajevo Mon Amour
- MBOs
- Killing Journalists
- Where Did Our History Go?
- Serbia Not Guilty of Genocide
- Carnival of Ruritania
- "Good Morning, Fascist Serbia!"
- Faking Bombings
- Dispatch from Amsterdam
- Where are your Americans now?
- Anna Politkovskaya Silenced
- Slaughter in the Monastery
- Mermaid's Trail
- A Burial in Srebenica
- Report from a concert by a Serbian war criminal
- To Hague, to Hague
- Preachers and Fascists, Out of My Panties
- Floods and Bombs
- Scorpions Trial, April 13
- The Muslim Women
- Belgrade: New Normality
- Serbia: An Underworld Journey
- Scorpions Trial, Day Three: March 15, 2006
- Scorpions Trial, Day Two: March 14, 2006
- Scorpions Trial, Day One: March 13, 2006
- The Long Goodbye
- Milosevic Arrives in Belgrade
- Slobodan Milosevic Died
- Milosevic Funeral


  1. Thanks BB for posting this.

    Very powerful stuff, and something we need reminding of. Our complacency is what allows this to happen, and I am the first to admit mine.

  2. @1 “Our complacency is what allows this to happen, and I am the first to admit mine.”

    Was that a cleverly disguised ‘first’ post?

  3. “I’m sure it wouldn’t interest anybody, outside of a small circle of friends.” Over 40 years ago and Phil Ochs is unfortunately still right on the money.

  4. Thanks, Figment, for the link. Thanks Jasmina for your powerful writing and BB for posting this. The first step in ending this or any human rights violations is to talk about it, report about it, be outraged about it. It’s a necessary if not sufficient step.

  5. Why don’t the superstars for once raise their voice?

    because so many of them long ago learned to NEVER criticise Russia

  6. Last year, I had the opportunity to work on a small video on Natalya Estemirova for Human Rights Watch. I poured over footage of Natalya trying to help people all over Chechnya in some of the most dire circumstances you can get on tape. Calling this woman a humanitarian does not seem enough. This woman was a saint. She knew what she was doing, clearly understood that she was facing death, and knew that the longer she did what she was doing the more likely it was that something would eventually happen. Hopefully her example will not be forgotten.

  7. BB has many fine guest writers who inspire, educate, and entertain, but Jasmina TeÅ¡anović’s pieces always leave me with a sensation somehow beyond any others, an eloquently delivered perspective from someone who has seen the worst our human nature can produce, yet has never lost faith in humanity’s potential for good.

    Thanks, Jasmina, and thanks, BB.

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