l

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Pussy Riot


Pussy Riot for the 99% — campaign for jailed punks grows
When you are in a hole, you stop digging. Even if this were not a cliche by now, it would still be common sense.
Does this mean, then, that Vladimir Putin and the hierarchy of the Russian Orthodox Church lack basic reasoning skills? The decision to extend the stay in in prison of three members of feminist punk band Pussy Riot certainly seems to proves it so.
In roughly five months, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Yekaterina Samutsevich and Maria Alokhina ― three feminist activists accused of storming the altar of Christ the Savior Cathedral during a performance of Pussy Riot's "Punk Prayer" ― have become a global cause celebre.
It is not an exaggeration to say that most of the young people forming the core of the “Occupy generation” know about the band and support the three women. Benefit gigs and actions in front of Russian consulates and embassies have become commonplace from LA to Prague to Tokyo.
As Pussy Riot's profile has grown, so has the level of embarrassment for the Russian state. All of the Putin regime's least savory characteristics are encapsulated in the Pussy Riot case: the disregard for democracy and civil liberties, the nepotistic coziness with the Orthodox Church and the willingness to sink to any low to silence political opponents.
Given this, it seems the smart, reasonable thing to do would be to simply let Alokhina, Tolokonnikova and Samutsevich go. Hit them with a fine, cut the government's losses, and live to fight another spineless day.

Instead, the judge decided on July 20 that, with still no word on when the actual trial will start, the three women will remain in a Moscow jail for at least the next six months, until at least January next year. For singing a song.
The rationale of the court was so stupid as to cause nosebleeds. According to prosecutors, the three women cannot be released because they are somehow to blame for a fatal anti-Muslim assassination and car-bombing that took place in the region of Tartarstan the day before.
"[The prosecutors] believe that the recent murder of the Mufti [Valiulla Yakupov] was provoked by the actions of the defendants, which is why they must remain in custody," said the women's defense attorney Violetta Volkova. The women are charged with "inciting religious hatred".
Within just a few days, the backlash against the courts was intense. Attorneys for the Pussy Riot three have gone on the offensive, demanding the court call Putin himself as witnesses.
Alokhina, Samutsevich and Tolokonnikova are reportedly on hunger strike in protest. The morning of the court hearing, fresh protests developed outside the courthouse.
The last time the Pussy Riot three's stay in jail was extended (in late June), it led to a large rise in awareness of their case. Amnesty International had already declared them "prisoners of conscience," Ad-Rock of the Beastie Boys had already DJ'ed at a benefit for them.
Within days of the June 20 announcement, though, Anti-Flag had recorded and released a cover version of the "Punk Prayer" online for free. Faith No More, during their Moscow show, brought members of Pussy Riot on stage and publicly declared their support.
A Paris art display dedicated to the group was unveiled. Red Hot Chili Peppers' Anthony Kiedis recently performed wearing a homemade Pussy Riot T-shirt, and the whole band has sent personal messages to the women in jail. Franz Ferdinand's members have also spoken out during their own shows.

The support for Pussy Riot among musicians and artists is not coming from nowhere. The same day as their most recent day in court, a poll released by the Levada Center revealed that 50% of Moscow residents believe the three women should be released, while 36% supported prosecution.
Meanwhile, Putin's approval ratings in Moscow have dropped to 38%.
This, in the context of global dissatisfaction against the status quo, is not good news for any leader.
In the wake of March elections rightfully seen as rigged, protests grew in  Moscow, St. Petersburg, Vladivostok and others. One would think that the wise thing to do would be to pretend everything has gone back to normal. But now, Pussy Riot's public profile has virtually backed Putin into a corner.
If the charges are dropped, the government looks weak. Even if they succeed in jailing the three women, they run the risk of further inflaming public protest.
It has become so obvious that even those in Putin's own camp are publicly voicing concern. Andrey Kuraev, an Orthodox priest and well-known blogger, recently stated the continued detention of Pussy Riot "only boosts the number of those sympathizing with them and gives weight to the critics of the Church, who point to it as one of the drivers of the prosecution".
Dig up, Vladdy. Dig up.
By Alexander Billet