Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Taking your life in your hands

Here is an amazing and uplifting story from the Washinton Post.

Last year, Natalia Dmytruk was working as a sign language interpreter for Ukraine's state-run television. Her face and hands would appear in a little box at the bottom of the screen as she sent out the news on the mid-morning and early afternoon telecasts to the hearing-impaired.

During the tense days of Ukraine's presidential elections last year something snapped and she staged a silent but bold protest on live television, ignoring the official script and informing deaf Ukrainians that official results from the November contest were fraudulent.

"I am addressing everybody who is deaf in the Ukraine. Our president is Victor Yushchenko. Do not trust the results of the central election committee. They are all lies. . . . And I am very ashamed to translate such lies to you. Maybe you will see me again ....."

None of her superiors admonished her and she returned to work for the 3 p.m. news. When she had finished that she went to the technicians and told them what she had done. "You are terrific, Natalia," she said they told her.

As we now know, hers was one of the acts of courage that further emboldened protests that grew until a new election was held and the opposition candidate, Viktor Yushchenko , was declared the winner.

A couple of weeks ago, Dmytruk and three other Ukrainian women received the Fern Holland Award the Vital Voices Global Partnership's fifth annual ceremony honoring women from around the world who have made a difference.

Compare and contrast Craig Murray, formerly the United Kingdom's Ambassador to Uzbekistan.

In October 2002, upon becoming concerned that torture and extra-judicial killings were taking place in Uzbekistan, he made a controversial speech at a human rights conference in Tashkent, in which he claimed that "Uzbekistan is not a functioning democracy" and saying of the boiling to death of two men, "all of us know that this is not an isolated incident."

Although it is true that Murray seems to have been imperfect, there is very little doubt that he was ultimately hounded out of his post by a Foreign Office establishment that was embarrassed by his outspokenness.

This week the Uzbekistan regime has been responsible for gunning down hundreds of demonstrators in the street.


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