Pussy Riot Member Starts Hunger Strike to Protest "Colony Slave Labor"

Search form

Pussy Riot Member Starts Hunger Strike to Protest "Colony Slave Labor"

Pussy Riot Member Starts Hunger Strike to Protest "Colony Slave Labor"
Tue, 9/24/2013 - by Reuters
This article originally appeared on Al Jazeera

A jailed member of Russian punk-rock band Pussy Riot said she was starting a hunger strike on Monday to protest against "slave labor" in her penal colony, and that she had received a death threat from a senior prison official.

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova was sentenced to two years in prison in last year after performing what the band called a "punk prayer" in a Moscow cathedral in a protest against President Vladimir Putin that came amid street protests against his rule.

"Beginning September 23, I am going on hunger strike and refusing to participate in colony slave labor," Tolokonnikova wrote in a letter circulated by her husband Pyotr Verzilov.

"I will do this until the administration starts obeying the law and stops treating incarcerated women like cattle," she wrote. Tolokonnikova is in Penal Colony No.14 in the Mordovia region, southeast of Moscow, where she said inmates were forced to work up to 17 hours per day sewing police uniforms.

She said workers received no more than four hours sleep per night and that prison officials used senior inmates to enforce order in a system reminiscent of Soviet-era Gulag labor camps.

Tolokonnikova added that collective punishment, increasing production quotas and cases of violence against those who failed to deliver were common in the penal colony where she was imprisoned. She also said living conditions failed to meet human rights standards and Russian law.

"Your hands are pierced with needles and covered in scratches, your blood is all over the work table, but still you keep sewing," she wrote.

Tolokonnikova said she had also asked the regional arm of the federal Investigative Committee to investigate a senior prison official whom she quoted as saying after a complaint about conditions: "You will surely never feel bad again because it is never bad in the other world."

Penal colony administrators declined to comment on her accusations, and the Mordovia region's prison authorities could not immediately be reached for comment.

Critics say the sentencing of Tolonnikova and two other band members is part of a crackdown on dissent since Putin returned to the Kremlin for a third term in May 2012.

The Pussy Riot protest offended many in the mostly Russian Orthodox country, but their treatment has also won them high-profile support in the West with celebrities including Madonna and ex-Beatle Paul McCartney speaking up for them.

Tolokonnikova is due for release in March, as is fellow band member Maria Alyokhina. A third band member had her sentence changed to a suspended one.

Alyokhina went on hunger strike in the summer after officials prevented her from attending a parole hearing. She was hospitalized in late May and ended her protest days after prison authorities agreed to her demands, Verzilov said.

Originally published by Al Jazeera

Article Tabs

Robert Mundell, euro policies, Greek austerity

The idea that the euro has "failed" is dangerously naive – the euro is doing exactly what its progenitor, and the wealthy 1%-ers who adopted it, predicted and planned for it to do.

Congress’s tax committees announced an agreement Thursday to speed through a bill to give President Barack Obama the Trans-Pacific Partnership fast-track authority.

A mobilization and sit-in by students, alumni and other activists – including a civil disobedience blockade of Massachusetts Hall, housing the office of President Faust – seeks to spur America's elite university to divest from fossil fuels.

Golden Dawn, Greek austerity, anti-austerity protests, Syriza Party, Pavlos Fyssas, Golden Dawn violence, scapegoats

Continued austerity policies, especially in Europe’s poorer countries, could leave those left behind looking for scapegoats – a situation that history teaches us never ends well.

wine industry, California drought, California water war, California water crisis

The crisis for many in northern California comes down to this: we're exporting our precious water in the form of profitable wine.

Own the Change, worker co-ops, worker-owned businesses, GRITtv, Toolbox for Education and Social Action, TESA, union co-ops, Cooperative Enterprise Development, US Federation of Worker Cooperatives, New York City Network of Worker Cooperatives

From Detroit to Madison to New York City, labor organizers, civic leader and other activists are getting behind worker co-ops in a big way.

Posted 6 days 15 hours ago
Public Land for Housing project, San Francisco gentrification, wealth inequality, income inequality, wealth gap, soaring rents

The angst that is swelling throughout San Francisco and pushing outward to other Bay Area cities is not because people are resisting change – the angst is over the largest growing inequality gap in the country.

Posted 6 days 15 hours ago
wealth inequality, income inequality, wealth gap, Koch brothers, money in politics

Our democracy is directly threatened when the rich buy off politicians – but no less dangerous is the quieter, more insidious buy-off of institutions democracy depends on to research, investigate, expose and mobilize action against big money.

Posted 6 days 15 hours ago
Eleanor Goldfield, Act Out!, California drought, Baltimore water shut-off

This week we dive into the shallow waters of California’s extreme drought, and what you can do about it (hint: it’s not just about cutting back on personal hygiene).

Posted 2 days 19 hours ago

I'm not sure we will win if we don't begin. So I realign my mind to the sky and occupy visions.

Posted 2 days 20 hours ago
Trans-Pacific Partnership, corporate trade deal, TPP tribunals

When the bill drops (if it does) this week, there will be a powerful people’s response across the country and around the world.

Demonstrators in New York clogged the Brooklyn Bridge in a mass protest against incidents of police violence

Detroit water shutoffs, Detroit water crisis, Rick Snyder,

Ever since the City of Detroit started shutting off water to low-income residents last summer, city officials have maintained that they're simply responding to Detroiters’ failure to pay their bills – but now it's looking like that's not the case.

low wage workers, $15/hour minimum wage, fastfood worker strikes

Nearly 1,000 fast-food workers, Walmart employees and union members in Los Angeles joined nationwide protests Wednesday calling for a $15 minimum wage.

I'm not sure we will win if we don't begin. So I realign my mind to the sky and occupy visions.

Sign Up