Bakhytzhan Toregozhina, a civil society activist from Kazakhstan, has been nominated for the U.S. Secretary of State’s International Women of Courage Award (IWOC) for documenting human rights violations associated with the widespread unrest that occurred in Kazakhstan last January and assisting victims of the event. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and First Lady Jill Biden will honor Toregozhina and other extraordinary women from all over the world at the White House on March 8, the State Department reported.
«Throughout her career, Toregozhina has been a leading voice representing victims of torture, abuse, and politicized repression. She has worked to defend people persecuted for the peaceful expression of their beliefs and has successfully campaigned for the release of many political prisoners,» the State Department said in a statement.
The activist has expressed her appreciation to all her colleagues, who assist her in human rights work.
«Hundreds and hundreds of interviews of eyewitnesses and victims have been recorded, and thousands of documents, photos and videos of shootings have been collected. We did this work so that history would not be manipulated in the future and remain in the memory of the people who they were in those terrible days of Qantar,» she wrote on Facebook.
Qantar is a mass riot that happened in January 2022. Initially, peaceful protests in Zhanaozen sparked riots throughout the country. In Almaty, they turned out to be extremely violent. As a result, 238 people died, including 19 law enforcement officials. In January 2023, the General Prosecutor’s Office said that Karim Masimov, former head of the National Security Committee is the one who was behind the riot.
With the IWOC Award, the State Secretary recognizes women from around the globe who have demonstrated exceptional courage, strength, and leadership in advocating for peace, justice, human rights, gender equity and equality, and the empowerment of women and girls. This year the U.S. State Department is hosting the 17th IWOC Award ceremony.
Since March 2007, the Department of State has recognized more than 180 women from more than 80 countries with the IWOC Award.
Apart from Toregozhina, the 2023 IWOC Award ceremony will honor 10 other women: Zakira Hekmat (Afghanistan), Alba Rueda (Argentina), Danièle Darlan (Central African Republic), Doris Ríos (Costa Rica), Meaza Mohammed (Ethiopia), Hadeel Abdel Aziz (Jordan), Datuk Ras Adiba Radzi (Malaysia), Bolor Ganbold (Mongolia), Bianka Zalewska (Poland) and Yuliia Paievska (Ukraine).