A tribute to Irina Paikacheva, Russian human rights defender



March 26, 2020

A tribute to Irina Paikacheva, Russian human rights defender

We at Shelter City want to pay tribute to Irina Paikacheva, a Russian human rights defender and former guest of Shelter City Utrecht.

Shelter City extends our heartfelt condolences to Irina’s family, friends, and colleagues after her passing in August 2019.

Irina worked greatly to make sure human dignity and personal liberties are respected by the state. Her work was inspiring and impactful, both in Russia and in the Netherlands.

My main job is to enlighten on matters of human rights” – Irina

Introducing Irina

In 1995, Irina established an association of women lawyers to provide free legal service to the citizens of the northwest area of Murmansk.

Later on she became a member of the Public Observatory Commission, a human rights watchdog in Russia monitoring cases of arbitrary detention. As part of her work for the Commission, she monitored the human rights situation in prisons in the area of Murmansk.

Irina’s work for the Commission often put her life in danger, but she bravely continued her fight for change.

Her stay in Shelter City

Irina relocated to Shelter City Utrecht in 2016. During her stay, she continued her work as a human rights defender and she engaged with the Dutch society on multiple occasions.

For instance, she reached out to prison institutions in the country and visited prisoners. She also participated in the Human Rights Café organized by Peace Brigades in Utrecht and she shared her experience of working in the prison system in Russia.

Irina was also attentive to women’s rights. In her speech at the Human Rights Café, she highlighted her efforts to improve the conditions of women and children in Russian prisons. When the red light district in Utrecht was closed, she immediately became concerned with the wellbeing and safety of sex workers. Having no safe legal space meant that sex workers would have to resort to riskier ways to work and find customers.

After the arrest of several Greenpeace members in Russia in 2013, she tried to have a meeting with Greenpeace Netherlands. She also worked to improve the living conditions of minorities and migrants in the country.

Irina also did not shy away from starting conversations with people on the street. This brought her in contact with a squatting community, which later on invited her to activities they organized.

Irina also actively participated in events organized at Dutch Universities and envisioned an exchange between Russian and Dutch professors, teachers and students in the field of human rights.

Photo: Irina at the red light district in Utrecht. Taken by Daniella van Bergen.

Photo source: @nordnewsru

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