Gina Vaynshteyn
November 19, 2013 1:00 pm

The last we heard of Pussy Riot, a Russian feminist punk protest group, group members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich were arrested and charged essentially for causing a riot. These women were denied bail and held in custody until their trial began in July of 2012, and in August, each woman was sentenced to two years in prison. In October of that year, Yekaterina was freed on probation, yet the other two band members were kept in jail. Due to horrendous treatment in the Russian prison system, Nadezhda recently went on a hunger strike. After receiving a death threat from a senior prison official, she demanded to be transferred to a different prison. This was the last anyone had heard of Nadezhda up until this week. Pyotr Verzilov, Nadezhda’s husband, knew that she had been transferred to a different facility, but had no idea what was being done with her. After finally locating her in the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk, he discovered that she had contracted tuberculosis due to the “complications that happened at the end of her hunger strike” (Al Jazeera).

After the 9th day of her hunger strike, Nadezhda was taken to the hospital, where it seems like she was exposed to TB. Although Pyotr reports that his wife reassures him that she is “doing fine” and that her health is “okay,” there is no doubt that this woman was abused by the Russian prison and hospital system.

To punish the Pussy Riot member for her rebellion, vocal protests, and attracting international interest, Russian authorities isolated Nadezhda. She was about 3,000 miles away from civilization.

If you don’t recall, Nadezhda and the two other Pussy Riot members were arrested because they broke into Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior in February of 2011 in order to perform the song, “Punk Prayer” in order to create a spotlight for Russia’s corrupt government and President Vladimir Putin’s dictatorship-like presidency. Furthermore, the political performance criticized the church’s heavy involvement with Putin’s re-election. To put it in perspective, imagine the Christian church (the most popular religious group in America, that is) becoming extremely intertwined with a president who is blatantly homophobic and largely in control of the media and essentially the country. It violates our notion of a separation of church and state, but this form of corruption has been going on in Russia since the dawn of time.

Pussy Riot began this rowdy political affair with the government in order to publicly seek change and “put an end to the Putin regime in this country.”

Due to all of the attention Pussy Riot’s imprisonment is getting from the West, Nadezhda’s husband believes the Russian authorities can’t really do much more to her without facing consequences (an international outcry). The Russian government has already received a lot of criticism from around the world; most countries think the women’s punishment is harsh and unnecessary.

Luckily, Nadezhda only has to hold on for three more months. She’s scheduled to be released in early March.

Featured image via The Guardian

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