Tamara Chikunova, founder of the Uzbekistan-based group Mothers Against the Death Penalty and Torture, will visit the United States for the first time to speak publicly with other family members of people who have been executed. Chikunova’s son Dmitri was executed in Uzbekistan seven years ago.
Chikunova’s visit to the United States is the result of a collaborative effort between Murder Victims’ Families for Human Rights (MVFHR) and the Third International Women’s Peace Conference. At the conference, Chikunova will speak as part of a panel titled “Creating More Victims: How Executions Hurt the Families Left Behind.” Joining her on the panel will be Lois Robison, whose son Larry was executed in Texas in 2000, and Melanie Hebert, whose uncle Spencer Goodman was executed in Texas that same year.
The panel will take place on Saturday, July 14, at 2:00 PM, at the Adams Mark hotel in downtown Dallas. Chikunova will also speak at a 5:30 reception organized by the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.
“This is an opportunity for people in Texas to hear about how the death penalty shames and traumatizes the surviving family members, and to see that that experience is common across different cultures and nationalities,” said Susannah Sheffer of Murder Victims’ Families for Human Rights, who will be moderating the panel.
The event takes place as Texas is preparing to carry out its 400th execution, currently scheduled for Aug. 15. Texas by far leads the U.S. in executions, accounting for more than one-third of the almost 1,100 executions that have occurred here since 1976.
Chikunova will talk about the secrecy surrounding the death penalty in her country: she was not notified of her son’s execution date ahead of time, but learned of it when she arrived at the prison for a visit and was told Dmitri had been executed the day before. To this day, Chikunova does not know where her son is buried.
“What Tamara Chikunova went through is appalling, and we need to remember that a kind of secrecy and silence surrounds the death penalty in the United States as well,” Sheffer said. “With each execution, we create a new grieving family, and their experience is seldom taken into account when we consider the social costs of the death penalty".
“What Tamara Chikunova went through is appalling, and we need to remember that a kind of secrecy and silence surrounds the death penalty in the United States as well,” Sheffer said. “With each execution, we create a new grieving family, and their experience is seldom taken into account when we consider the social costs of the death penalty.”
For more information contact Susannah Sheffer at 617-512-2010 or firstname.lastname@example.org.