Pussy Riot

Much has been made of the arrest of the Pussy Riot band member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and her hunger strike in prison. She was convicted of “religious hatred inspired hooliganism” in August of 2012 after performing at the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow and sentenced to 2 years at a women’s penal colony.

Most recently, Tolokonnikova was in the news during her nine-day hunger strike. While she was hospitalized on the tenth day and given a food IV drip, a letter that she wrote appeared online on September 23rd explaining the inhospitable conditions that led to her hunger strike. She described the food as having very little nutritional value and the 16 hour work days to be exhausting. Shortly thereafter, the Commission of the Human Rights Council visited to inspect the colony. In a report released by the HRC a year after she was jailed noted the improvement in the plumbing services in the prison but still recommended that Tolokonnikova  be moved to another unit with less work and medically examined.

Now it appears as though this hunger strike was organized from the outside by members of the HRC and Tolokonnikova’s husband,  Pyotr Verzilov. According to members of the HRC, not only was the hunger strike organized not by Tolokonnikova, but the visit to the penal colony by the HRC was also planned. These members argue that Verzilov and other organizers of the hunger strike treated Tolokonnikova. While the details are hazy, hopefully more will be forthcoming. In the meantime, we can wonder: is it ethical to organize a prison hunger strike if one is not participating in the strike itself? Did the organizers and more importantly, Tolokonnikova’s husband, know the conditions Tolokonnikova was enduring before they planned the strike?