Pussy Riot Member Raises Iron Curtain on Horrifying Russian Prison

Appalling food and long hours of forced labor lead punk activist to go on hunger strike.

Pussy Riot Member's Hunger Stike in Horrifying Russian Prison
Member of the female punk band "Pussy Riot" Nadezhda Tolokonnikova looks out from a holding cell as she attends a court hearing to appeal for parole at the Supreme Court of Mordovia in Saransk, July 26, 2013. (Sergei Karpukhin/ Reuters)
TakePart News Editor Shaya Tayefe Mohajer is a journalist who has worked in many corners of the world for major news organizations.

The women at Penal Colony No. 14 rise at 7:30 a.m. and work until after midnight to sew police uniforms, browbeaten and intimidated to meet ever-growing quotas of needlework on their dilapidated machinery. Beatings, hunger and emotional torture force the women to conform—but one member of the band Pussy Riot has had enough.

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova announced Monday that she’s going on a hunger strike to protest conditions she’s enduring during the two-year sentence she is serving along with another member of the band. The pair were sentenced after being tried for holding a prank punk performance in a Moscow cathedral that called on the Virgin Mary to rid Russia of its president Vladimir Putin.

In the tradition of another famous Russian prisoner, Nobel Prize-winning author Aleksander Solzhenitsyn, Tolokonnikova details the Stalin-esque cruelty behind her day to day life. Her letter details abuse inside the penal colony, about 400 miles southeast of Moscow, in an open letter to The Guardian.

I will not remain silent, resigned to watch as my fellow prisoners collapse under the strain of slavery-like conditions. I demand that the colony administration respect human rights; I demand that the Mordovia camp function in accordance with the law. I demand that we be treated like human beings, not slaves.

Tolokonnikova said prisoners are fed slimy black potatoes and watered down milk, and subjected to physical beatings and exposed to the elements, resulting in frostbite and amputations.

Her jailers intimidate and humiliate the friends she makes behind bars. Tollokonnikova says she isn't beaten, but others are. "It's true: others are beaten up. For not being able to keep up. They hit them in the kidneys, in the face."
 
PC-14 prisoners earn less than a dollar a month and get a day off every six weeks.

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