Human Rights Watch mourns the passing of the dedicated Kazakhstan human rights activist Ninel Konstantinovna Fokina. She passed away recently in Almaty at the age of 85.
“Fokina was at the heart of the early days of Kazakhstan’s human rights movement and she fiercely defended human rights all her life,” said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Her dedication and commitment to seek justice on behalf of people whose rights have been suppressed was truly remarkable.”
Fokina was the head of the Almaty Helsinki Committee, one of the very first human rights organizations in Kazakhstan. She started her human rights work in late 1986, in the wake of a mass protest against the Kremlin’s sudden decision to replace the first secretary of the Kazakh communist party leader. Troops beat demonstrators, killing at least three and wounding hundreds, and police arrested hundreds of protesters.
Fokina was also a vital voice for religious freedom, freedom of expression, and trade union rights in Kazakhstan.
Sergey Duvanov, an independent journalist from Kazakhstan, remembering Ninel Fokina, commented on her candor and integrity. He said, “She knew how to talk very directly. Her criticism of human rights violations by Kazakh authorities was tough and brave. We worked together many years; we really miss her.”
Human Rights Watch is profoundly saddened by this loss. We send our deepest condolences to Ninel’s Konstantinovna’s family and colleagues.