Pussy Riot

PussyRiotDoc-LRG

Exclusive Interview with Fara and Shaiba
of Pussy Riot

This interview was conducted by an Anonymous source. Power Popaholic supports artistic freedom and agreed to publish this interview.

The Anonymous reporter had a chance to chat with two members of Russian dissident music group Pussy Riot several days ago in New York to get an update on what’s happening with the band. As you likely know, two members of the band, Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikov, are now serving 2-year sentences in separate prison camps after being convicted of hooliganism last year. Another band member, Yekaterina Samutshevich, was convicted of the same charge but has now been released.

My meeting with Fara and Shaiba — Pussy Riot’s two members who’ve remained free – for now, at least – occurred because our anonymous correspondent is a musician active in Occupy Wall Street, and one of the band’s objectives while visiting New York was to meet with Occupy and other New York-based activists before appearing before major media cameras to promote the upcoming Pussy Riot HBO documentary airing on June 10th.

Why meet with Occupy? Because both Occupy and Pussy Riot have played very similar roles in Russian and U.S. media. Both dissident groups have been labeled as “extremists” and been subject to surveillance and arrest in their home countries, but have been held up as exemplars of freedom, courage, and conscience in the media of the other superpower.  And last year, Guitarmy – Occupy’s musical action group –supported Pussy Riot with a New York-based musical action.

So it was that this peculiar international convocation of “hooligans” and “dirty hippies who should get jobs” came together, at a secure, undisclosed location in Manhattan, to trade notes on music, art, dissent, jail conditions, and other matters. People in this group were allowed to ask any question they wanted to ask; the only restriction was that they pledged not to disclose what band members Fara and Shaiba look like, because physical anonymity remains an important protection for Pussy Riot against further prosecution.

WHAT IS THE LATEST NEWS FORM THE BAND?
PR: Both Maria and Nadezhda remain in a state of “info-isolation” within their respective prison camps. Although they are both allowed to send and receive e-mail, these e-mails are monitored closely by prison authorities. Whenever they attempt to communicate with anyone who is not a direct family member, something “breaks” – the “wires stop working.”  Neither one of them is allowed to get information about what is going on in the outside world. We saw this happen with Yekaterina, who was in a prison camp for six months. It was only upon her release that she learned that Pussy Riot had received global support.Until yesterday, Maria was on an 11-day hunger strike and her communication privileges were completely suspended. Neither her husband nor father could get in touch with her; the e-mails simply bounced back. No one had any idea what was happening with her. But she has now ended her strike, and now the source for contacting her has been restored.

WHY WAS MARIA ON A HUNGER STRIKE?
PR: The cause was that the prison put into effect a new set of rules that was designed to turn the other prisoners against Maria. The other prisoners were put into a small room and they were not allowed to leave because the doors were padlocked. They were told that this was because of Maria. But she has now ended the strike because the prison removed the locks. The other prisoners also began receiving medical attention that they needed that they were not getting. The prison also allowed the workers, who sew police and military uniforms, to return to an 8-hour day. These were small but important victories for her.

WHAT IS LIFE LIKE INSIDE THE PRISON CAMP?
PR: The prisoners are very docile. They don’t know their rights. The camp where Maria is serving her sentence is very cold, and many of the prisoners have no warm clothing or scarves. Maria told the prisoners that they could fight to get warmer clothes, but the authorities are very concerned that she is spreading such knowledge. So she was put into solitary confinement to stop this spreading of knowledge. While in solitary, Maria was allowed to write letters, and she sent many letters. Some of these letters – to human rights groups – got through. As a result, the prisoners did receive warm clothing. Also, the bathrooms were fixed. So this was a victory – a tiny one – but a victory nonetheless.

HAS PUBLIC OPINION IN RUSSIA SHIFTED TOWARD PUSSY RIOT??
PR: Before we left for New York, we got a phone call from someone who studies the latest stats (poll numbers). He told us that public opinion in Russia is shifting in our favor. We have found that people who actually meet us – instead of relying on the Russian mass media – change their opinions about us very quickly and feel more positively about us.

DO PEOPLE IN RUSSIA HAVE ACCESS TO ALTERNATIVE MEDIA?
PR: Yes, but it seems that the majority of people who have access to social media in Russia are already on our side. Most ordinary people just watch TV. This is how most peoples’ opinions are formed.

WHY MUST YOU REMAIN ANONYMOUS?
PR: We highly value anonymity. Not just for our own safety, but because the concept of anonymity is integral to what Pussy Riot is about. We want to stand up against the idea of the cult of personality – the cult of media personality. Anonymity is very very important to us.

WHAT ARE YOU HOPING TO ACCOMPLISH WITH THIS U.S. TRIP?
PR: We want to meet with other activists and try to build alliances. We are very proud to meet with Occupy. When the Zuccotti occupation was happening, activists in Moscow watched what was happening very carefully. What was happening in New York was very important to them. We are glad that your network has survived – it is much stronger here than in Russia – and want to learn how you did this and also build a cross-cultural bridge with you.

Our other objective is to meet with certain political representatives here. We look forward to our return to Moscow and want two things to happen when we return: that Maria and Nadezhda be exonerated and that the Pussy Riot Youtube video clips that have been banned are again made public.

ARE YOU STILL ABLE TO CREATE MUSIC?
PR: Unfortunately we cannot do so now. We want to make music again but must think about the repercussions, which might get worse. We do not want to tone down the aggression in our music, but we do not want to be prosecuted either. Nor is it possible to write new material, because our material is a direct product of the actions – the situations – that we do. If we cannot take actions, we cannot generate new material.

HOW CAN PEOPLE IN THE U.S.A. HELP YOU?
PR: Any solidarity actions that can be done will help us. Such actions actually provide safety for the girls in prison and provide room for our moves to exonerate them. Also, please write letters – not e-mail, but actual letters —  they do get through. One thing that I recommend is using Google Translate – use it to compose the letter and translate into Russian, and then print it out and send it.

WHERE CAN FANS FIND CURRENT INFORMATION ABOUT PUSSY RIOT?
PR: e still do not have our own Twitter account back yet, but there is current good information on Twitter here: @pussyriot. Also, there is good current information on http://freepussyriot.org.

 

Thanks to Anonymous for providing this interview.

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