"The West has, in effect, allowed the Soviet Union to ignore their human rights obligations," stated Tatiana Yankelevich, step daughter of Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov.
Yankelevich, speaking on behalf of Nobel prize winning human rights advocate, addressed a sympathetic audience of 250 Tuesday night at the Kennedy School of Government.
After a special screening of a made-for-television movie about Sakharov, she and Efrem Yankelevich, her husband, answered questions about the exiled physicist and issues of human rights in the Soviet Union.
"These times are very frightening, and it shows to us that we have been too weak in defending our human rights ideals," said Yankelevich, adding that the U.S. should more stringently enforce the Helsinki Accords, Mr. Yankelevich, who is Sakharov's official representative in the U.S., said that the film was important because it would bring the subject of Sakharov and life in the USSR to the attention of the American people.
"They are not often exposed to such subjects," he said, "and it is important for Americans to know more about the USSR," adding that the film was essentially true-to-life.
The film--presented by Home Box Office (HBO)--will be shown nationally in mid-September, and stars Glenda Jackson and Jason Robards.
Sakharov and his wife Elena Bonner, Tatiana Yankelevich's mother, were exiled to the city of Gorky in 1980. Since then, his case has been a cause celebre for human rights activists around the world.
Though Yankelevich saw her mother in April, she said, "no one, including us, has heard from them since then, and we do not even know if they are still alive."
Bonner said that the Sakharov case is still famous in Russia. "There is not a single person who does not know the name of Andrei Sakharov, whether or not they approve or disapprove of his actions."
Many people in the packed audience seemed anxious to take some action to help the case along, several shouting out, "what can we do to help?" But the couple essentially said that there is no clear solution.
Higgins Professor of Physics Sheldon I. Glashow, who serves as president of the Washington-based Sakharov Institute, was in the audience. "I wouldn't expect any action on this case until after the [Presidential] election," Glashow said yesterday.
Referring to the former presidential candidate's efforts, he said. "I'm interested to see if Jesse Jackson can do something--it may well be that the Russians will let him in to embarrass Reagan."