"Stanislav Markelov and Anastasia Baburova were murdered on January 19 in the center of Moscow.
Why do their murders concern each person who lives in Russia, each person who aspires to have the rights for which people like Markelov and Baburova fight? Why should we come together to share this pain and express our outrage?
Because our silence is tantamount to acquitting the people who terrorize us. It is tantamount to admitting that they are right. They terrorize us with these murders, which are the latest in a long series of violent acts against social and political activists. These terrorist acts have become the dangerously familiar backdrop to our daily lives.
After such outrageous murders, the time has come for us to decide: do we want this violence to continue in our country? Are we prepared to make our peace with the fact that criminal investigations into violent attacks against social and political activists never lead to convictions?
You lose your job. You lose your home. You lose your rights. The people who defend you are murdered. How far must this humiliation go before you stop putting up with it in silence?
People who say or think that such things are typical the world over are mistaken. Russia ranks third (after Iraq and Algeria) in numbers of murdered journalists. In every country that has gone through a similar phase in its history, people took to the streets in order to change their country.
It is enough for thousands of people to take to the streets in order to put an end to this “criminal immunity”—immunity for those people who terrorize free society. We need mass protests to reverse the direction our society is headed."
STANISLAV MARKELOV was no ordinary lawyer. He was one of a handful of lawyers who defended workers, railroad men, evicted dormitory residents, cheated apartment co-op members, anti-fascists, refugees, and victims of police abuse. He fought for the rights of Mikhail Beketov, editor-in-chief of the newspaper Khimki Pravda, who was viciously beaten this past autumn for criticizing the local administration. Markelov took on the cases of social activists, whose work is invaluable for our society. Markelov helped many of them pro bono.
Stanislav represented the victims in the trial of Colonel Yuri Budanov; the Nord-Ost hostage tragedy; neofascist attacks on anti-fascists and migrants; and the massive police pogrom against the residents of Blagoveshchensk. He worked with Anna Politkovskaya, traveled to Chechnya on many occasions, wrote critical articles, and participated in environmental protest camps.
He understood that society is something you have to build yourself, and so he organized the Rule of Law Institute, which gives legal assistance to journalists, lawyers, activists, homeowners, and workers.
ANASTASIA BABUROVA was a fifth-year student in the journalism faculty at Moscow State University. She worked for Izvestia, Novaya Gazeta, and several other publications. She was an activist in the anarchist and environmental movements. She participated in many protest actions and civic initiatives, in particular, the European Social Forum in Malmö (2008). Nastya covered non-mainstream youth movements, street actions and protests, and court trials.
Stanislav was thirty-four; Nastya, twenty-five. Both of them were just beginning their work: they could have accomplished a lot more had they not been killed. They took on toughest, most important problems of our time. They were people who understood quite clearly that freedom in our society could only be fought for and won—fought for and won by citizens themselves. If citizens don’t fight for this freedom, it will become less and less, until society is strangled by totalitarianism or fascism.
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