The desolate field was on the edge of town next to a disused factory. I heard crows and distant traffic as we walked along in the dusk, marshland on either side.
"One of the women was wearing red boots," said Natalia. "There was very little grass in winter so you could spot her a mile off." My companion was a tall, determined-looking woman, who took big strides and talked at a rate of knots. Unlike most women in Grozny these days she wore no headscarf. Natalia was head of the Grozny branch of Memorial, the organisation that campaigns for human rights across Russia.
She had brought me to this dreary suburb to see the place where three women's bodies were found one day last November. The morning after that gruesome discovery, four more dead women were discovered around the Chechen capital. All seven had been shot in the head with an automatic weapon.
As we stood shivering in the dying light, I never dreamt that three weeks later Natalia, herself, would suffer a similar fate.
On Wednesday she was bundled into a van as she left her home. Her body was found later the same day in the neighbouring republic of Ingushetia, with multiple bullet wounds. There is little doubt in Chechnya that her killing was connected to her investigative and campaigning work - including the case of the seven murdered women.
These three women knew that speaking out, denouncing violence against women, put them in the bull's eye of murderous religious fundamentalists who kill with impunity. Such violence is also seen in other countries dominated by religious rightwing ideology. Mexico, for example. From here:
Mexican activist & journalist Lydia Cacho Ribeiro has been arrested and jailed by police. Women's rights advocates are calling Cacho's arrest a 'counter-attack' in revenge against Cacho for having authored a book, 'Demons in Eden' that exposed the connections between a group of wealthy business-men and pedophile rings and child pornographers.
Cacho was detained for the supposed crime of defamation (a criminal offense in Mexico) resulting from a complaint filed by Nacif Borge, a Lebanese born textile
businessman who Cacho has linked with the leader of the pedophile gang, millionaire hotelier Jean Succar Kuri ...
Since the publication of Demons in Eden, Cacho has been harassed and has received death threats for her investigative journalism. Cacho is the director of the Center for Integral Attention for Women (CIAM) in Cancun, whose 40 member staff have also been threatened by forces apparently linked to the wealthy businessmen.
Brutal, systemic violence perpetrated in christian countries against women and children - with the collusion of state officials - has been well documented by Amnesty International.