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Ukrainian Activist in Despair About Future of Her Country

  • Lisa Schlein

Ukrainian Irina Dovgan gives an interview to AFP in Kyiv, Sept. 5, 2014.

Ukrainian Irina Dovgan gives an interview to AFP in Kyiv, Sept. 5, 2014.

Ukrainian activist Irina Dovgan said she is not optimistic about the future of her country. The activist, who was accused of being a spy and tortured by pro-Russian separatists, has appealed to the U.N. Human Rights Council to support her country in its time of need.

Dovgan said she still has nightmares about the torture and public humiliation to which she was subjected. She lived in a small village near the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine. Before the war she ran a beauty salon. When the conflict erupted, she said she decided to help the Ukrainian soldiers by bringing them food, medicine and clothing.

On August 24, pro-Russian soldiers arrested her, accusing her of being a spy. Initially, she said she was interrogated by Ukrainians and was not tortured. She then was turned over to other interrogators who subjected her to a horrendous ordeal. She speaks through an interpreter.

“For two hours I was interrogated in one room by 10 people. As far as I understood, they belonged to Chechen and Ossetian nationalities," said Dovgan. "The interrogation was very cruel, without any mercy."

She said she was beaten, and her clothes were taken off. The soldiers held their guns next to her ear and shot them. She also was threatened to be raped by a group of soldiers.”

The following day, Dovgan said she was taken to the main square in Donetsk wrapped in a Ukrainian flag with a sign around her neck saying, “I am a killer and an agent of killers.” She was released after pictures taken by photographers and foreign journalists alerted the world to what was happening.

Dovgan said she was freed after four days in custody, but she and her family continue to receive threats.

She said she feels betrayed by President Petro Poroshenko, who recently decided to grant self-rule and an amnesty to Ukrainian separatists.

“Everything that I have done and everything I was tortured for was in vain because of the latest steps the Ukrainian government took," said Dovgan. "But, I am not a politician, so I can only hope that our president knows what he is doing, and he thinks he is doing the right things.”

In her speech to the U.N. Human Rights Council, Dovgan questioned Russia’s selection as a a member of that body, since she said Russia directly sponsors those who tortured her. She asked the United Nations to get Russia to guarantee not to persecute her for speaking the truth.

Dovgan said she would like to go home and resume the life she had before war broke out in eastern Ukraine, but she cannot. She said her immediate concern is to regain some of the hearing she lost while being tortured.

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