Assoc. Opinion Editor
Imprisoned Pussy Riot member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova has gone missing within the Russian prison system, after being arrested in 2012 along with other Pussy Riot members with the charge of “hoologanism” in a Russian Cathedral. Nadezhda and fellow Pussy Riot members wanted to call attention to the rule of Vladimir Putin, which many believe to be unethical.
After being sentenced to two years in prison, Nadezhda has been kept in a Mordovian gulag, named number 14, and separated from her fellow band mates. Staging a hunger strike in September, Nadezhda has protested against human rights violations within the prison, the Mordovian gulags being especially hostile towards their inmates.
She began resisting her imprisonment even further after the management at prison number 14 threatened her with her life. Her commitment to equal rights shined through when she was placed in the medical ward after not eating for five days straight, showing the authorities that she would never give up.
The Russian prison system noticed her passionate dedication, moving her from the Mordovian gulag to the mountain city of Chelyabinsk on October 24. Since that date, Nadezhda’s location has been unknown, leaving many to speculate that she has either died or gone missing.
Russian law requires a prisoner’s family to be notified whenever they are transferred. Nadezhda’s family, however, states that they were not informed when she was moved. “There’s no proof she’s alive,” Nadezhda’s father told Buzzfeed. “We don’t know the state of her health. Is she sick? Has she been beaten?”
I’m sure by this point everyone is aware of the vile treatment the women of Pussy Riot dealt with after protesting the reign of Putin. Unjustly accused with the charge of “hooliganism” after performing their song “Mother of God, Drive Putin Away” inside the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow, Nadezhda and two fellow members were wrongfully sentenced to two years imprisonment. Apparently, Russia has gone back to their old Soviet ways by arresting protesters who criticize their government.
Threatening a prison inmate with death is only adding insult to injury, as one can clearly see that Russia isn’t concerned with or interested in basic human rights. By not informing Nadezhda’s family of her whereabouts, the Russian government is only making the situation more treacherous.
If something dangerous really did happen to Nadezhda, then the Russian government and prison system need a close inspection on how they handle fundamental human rights in their country. They simply cannot hide someone who demands equality from the rest of the world.
Western society cannot let Russia slip back into their Soviet agenda under Putin. Doing so would create even more hostilities between Russia and democratic Western civilization, developing a situation reminiscent of post-WWII animosity. Putin and Russia need to understand that government control cannot undermine or override the needs and rights that belong to all citizens, no matter their race, gender, sexuality, or class.
Until then, I hope that Nadezhda continues to fight for those who cannot fend for themselves, whether staging a hunger strike or performing with Pussy Riot. Nadezhda, if you’re still out there, I’m cheering for you.