“Beginning Monday, 23 September, I am going on hunger strike. This is an extreme method, but I am convinced that it is my only way out of my current situation.”

These are the words of Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, art activist and member of Russian punk collective Pussy Riot. 14 months ago, she, along with two other members of the group, were arrested under charges of “hooliganism” following a guerrilla performance in a cathedral. After serving the first year of her two-year sentence, Tolokonnikova has spoken out about the extreme conditions under which she has been living.

Her letter speaks frankly about her day-to-day life at the notorious penal colony of Mordovia. So goes the saying: "Those who never did time in Mordovia never did time at all." Yet, somehow it's worse than one can fathom. Tolokonnikova, along with a brigade of other women, spend up to 17 hours a day at work; four hours of sleep is average. Their work involves sewing police uniforms for a practically non-existent salary. The women are required to meet an ever-increasing quota, but use only defunct machinery, thus creating an ever-worsening cycle of poor productivity and the resulting punishment. The environment is filled with anxiousness and paranoia. Everyone is “on the verge of breaking down [...] Mordovian prisoners are afraid of their own shadows.”

Protestation, Tolokonnikova says, is useless. Indignation will result in a loss of access to food, sleep, and a bathroom. Order is maintained with threats and prisoners are turned to “putty” just to survive. 

Tolokonnikova’s lawyer filed a complaint regarding the conditions of the camp this past May. The result? Increased sewing quotas, warm bedding taken away, and threats of physical violence. Now, Tolokonnikova says a hunger strike is her only remaining option. “I will do this until the administration starts obeying the law and stops treating incarcerated women like cattle ejected from the realm of justice for the purpose of stoking the production of the sewing industry; until they start treating us like humans.”

Visit FreePussyRiot.org to learn more about how you can help these imprisoned women!

 

Thanks to The Guardian

Image via The Guardian

Tagged in: women in prison, Russia, Pussy Riot, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, hunger strike, free pussy riot   

The opinions expressed on the BUST blog are those of the authors themselves and do not necessarily reflect the position of BUST Magazine or its staff.




blog comments powered by Disqus