2021 Moral Courage Award with Daria Navalnaya

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Daria Navalnaya, pro-democracy activist and daughter of poisoned and jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny – winner of the 2021 Moral Courage Award, addresses the 13th Annual Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracysee quotes below, followed by full prepared remarks.

On father Alexei Navalny’s political activism:

“He spent his life fighting corruption and advocating for human rights and freedoms.”

On Russia’s poisoning of father Alexei Navalny:

“My dad was repeatedly arrested on false charges, harassed, stalked, raided, and attacked. And in August 2020, he was poisoned with a military grade nerve agent, Novichok.”

“He’s had threats before, he had acid thrown in his face, but this time was different because he fell into a coma.”

“My mom wanted him transported abroad to get proper medical treatment, but the doctors and the Russian government officials wouldn’t release him from the run-down provincial hospital in Siberia.”

On experience as the daughter of a Russian dissident:

“When I was 10 and my little brother was 3, and our apartment was raided by the police for the first time. The confusion, fear, anxiety and helplessness I felt were overwhelming. I remember my parents being extremely worried for us.”

Alexei Navalny dedicates award to Russian and Belarussian dissidents:

“In his letter, my dad asked to dedicate this award to every single political prisoner in Russia and Belarus. He wrote: ‘Most of them are in a much worse situation compared to me, because they’re not as well-known or famous. But they should know that they are not alone or forgotten about.'”

On receiving award for her father:

“It’s sad that I am accepting this award today. You really should be looking at my father instead. But he is in a Russian prison right now, simply because of what he says, does and believes in. And because he didn’t die, when the Russian government wanted him to.”

“For all these years, he’s been showing the people in power, who are shamelessly abusing that power, that this is not going to work. That WE are the majority. We – the citizens – will decide who is going to rule our country and for how long. And we will protect our human rights and our freedom.”

Full Remarks

When my dad found out that he’d be receiving the Geneva Summit Moral Courage award and that I was invited to accept it on his behalf, he wrote me a letter from prison, saying: “Dasha, I have two very important things to tell you. First, and most importantly, please do not screw up your first public performance. And second: don’t forget to say how extremely proud I am to receive this high award”. It is a big honor for my father and everyone who supports what he is doing. It’s an important sign of recognition, it means that the world cares. I say it both as a proud daughter and as a Russian citizen, concerned about the fast downfall of democracy in my country.

I’m Daria Navalnaya, daughter of Alexei Navalny, one of Vladamir Putin’s top political rivals. He spent his life fighting corruption and advocating for human rights and freedoms. Like freedom of speech. Or freedom of political expression. People’s right to protest and participate in elections. All the things that are so important but sadly missing in Russia.

My dad was repeatedly arrested on false charges, harassed, stalked, raided, and attacked. And in August 2020, he was poisoned with a military grade nerve agent, Novichok. 

I remember the moment I learned about it – I woke up, checked my phone like always, and saw a bunch of notifications from Twitter. Everyone was talking about my father & the plane’s emergency landing. He’s had threats before, he had acid thrown in his face, but this time was different because he fell into a coma. My mom wanted him transported abroad to get proper medical treatment, but the doctors and the Russian government officials wouldn’t release him from the run-down provincial hospital in Siberia.

As that was happening, I thought back to the time when I was 10 and my little brother was 3, and our apartment was raided by the police for the first time. The confusion, fear, anxiety and helplessness I felt were overwhelming. I remember my parents being extremely worried for us. They didn’t want police in the kids’ room, but what could they really do? Fortunately, the police back then weren’t quite as experienced in raiding every place my father sets foot in as they are now. And the best plan that my 10-year-old panicking brain could come up with was to shove my laptop, under my T-shirt and in my pants. And, I guess, that was the safest place but what I’m trying to say is: with that little action I helped my parents focus on the important things happening, instead of worrying about my homework on that laptop. 

When I went to visit my dad in the hospital after the poisoning, I knew the best thing I could do to support him was to leave my worries at the door and just be there. We watched Netflix together, we talked about school, he asked me a million questions about my classes & my friends. He always asked me to stay a bit longer. 

This is why I want to say hi and ‘thank you’ not only to the political prisoners and activists themselves, but also to their spouses, children, families, and friends. Your support is so crucial, you deserve every award for simply being there. 

In his letter, my dad asked to dedicate this award to every single political prisoner in Russia and Belarus. He wrote: “Most of them are in a much worse situation compared to me, because they’re not as well-known or famous. But they should know that they are not alone or forgotten about.” We must remember those fighting for our freedom, and we must help and support them and their families.

I’m not going to lie, as fun as it is to give this speech, it’s sad that I am accepting this award today. You really should be looking at my father instead. But he is in a Russian prison right now, simply because of what he says, does and believes in. And because he didn’t die, when the Russian government wanted him to. For all these years, he’s been showing the people in power, who are shamelessly abusing that power, that this is not going to work. That WE are the majority. We – the citizens – will decide who is going to rule our country and for how long. And we will protect our human rights and our freedom. 

To end this speech, I would like to repeat something my dad once said: “Russia deserves to be free and happy, and it will be”. I also firmly believe that. Thank you

Speakers and Participants

Daria Navalnaya

Daughter of poisoned and jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny

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