28 November 2016
The human rights activist Svetlana Gannushkina has received the Right Livelihood award, known as the alternative Nobel prize. Rosbalt reported on the award ceremony in Stockholm. Svetlana Gannushkina, chair of the Civic Assistance Committee and a member of the board of the International Memorial Society has been organizing assistance to refugees from all over the world for more than 25 years.
In the statement issued by the Swedish Right Livelihood Award Foundation, the award has been given to the Russian woman for her many years fighting for the observance of human rights and justice for refugees and forced migrants, and also for her role in encouraging tolerance between different ethnic communities.
The other laureates this year included the Syrian volunteer organization, White Helmets, which rescues civilians caught up in military conflicts, the Egyptian feminist organization Nazra and its leader Mozn Hassan, and the Turkish oppositionist newspaper Cumhuriyet. Not all were able to attend the ceremony in Sweden. The Egyptian authorities did not allow Hassan to leave the county, and the ten Turkish journalists who received the award are in prison.
The Russian human rights laureate intends to give the approximately 80,000 euros, accompanying the award, to ‘direct assistance’ for refugees. In particular, in Gannushkina’s words, to ‘that which no one supports’, i.e., food, housing, etc.
In Russia at present there are many refugees but, as the leader of Civic Assistance recognized in an interview with Deutsche Welle, not a single wave has been wholly integrated. ‘As of today the problems relating even to those who came at the time of the Karabakh conflict have not been resolved’ said Gannushkina. She rates very highly the role played by the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, in taking in refugees, describing her as an outstanding woman.
The Right Livelihood award was initiated in 1980. Its 3 million Swedish crowns are divided equally among the laureates.
Svetlana Alekseevna Gannushkina graduated from the mechanics and mathematics faculty of Moscow State University in 1965, where she remained as a graduate student; from 1970-2000, after a short period in the Chemical machine-construction Institute, she taught in the mathematics department of the Russian Humanitarian State University. She has a son and daughter, three grandsons, and a granddaughter.
She has participated in human rights work since the end of the 1980s. More recently she has focused on the infringement of human rights in Chechnya and assistance to migrants in Russia. In 1990 she became one of the founders of the Civic Assistance Committee, the first human rights organization offering different kinds of assistance to refugees and forced migrants. In 1993 she participated in the setting up of the Memorial Human Rights Centre, and in 1996 organized a Network Migration Rights within the Centre. Both the Committee and the Network work closely with and receive support from the UN Committee on Refugees.
Civic Assistance offers material support, free legal advice, assistance in receiving medical help or in dealing with the authorities to refugees, forced migrants, displaced and stateless persons. It has worked with Secours Catholique, and received financial support for humanitarian assistance from the European Commission. It has a Centre where students from Moscow universities work with refugee children to help them with education and preparing for a normal school life.
Svetlana Gannushkina heads a programme of the Memorial Human Rights Centre within whose framework the Network Migration Rights operates. It provides free legal aid to migrants in more than 45 regions in Russia. Its lawyers offer advice, defend migrants in court, and work on ensuring regional decisions correspond with federal law and the Constitution. Gannushkina also acts as an expert in the design of legislation affecting refugees and displaced persons, and regularly issues reports on the situation regarding migrants. She was a member of the Government Commission on migration policy (shut down in 2004); in 2009, after her appeal at a meeting with the President, the Commission was re-established.
Svetlana Gannushkina has received awards for her work with refugees from German, UN, Czech, and Norwegian organizations which work in the field of human rights.
Translated by Mary McAuley
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