Russia is not a great place for freedom right now. Publicly being gay has been made illegal, oligarchs are making billions while the poor suffer, and an increasingly authoritarian President Putin is clenching his iron fist over the country.
One of the earliest protests were the Pussy Riots, who used music to spread messages of freedom and democracy. They were viciously arrested and thrown in jail on trumped up charges and long, unjust sentences. Now, one of the protesters has leaked word of being forced to live in slave-like conditions.
“Beginning September 23, I am going on hunger strike and refusing to participate in colony slave labour,” Tolokonnikova wrote in a letter circulated by her husband Pyotr Verzilov.
“I will do this until the administration starts obeying the law and stops treating incarcerated women like cattle,” she wrote.
Tolokonnikova is in Corrective Colony No. 14 in the Mordovia region, southeast of Moscow. She said inmates at the colony were forced to work up to 17 hours a day sewing police uniforms...workers received no more than four hours sleep a night and prison officials used senior inmates to enforce order.
This sounds too much like the Gulags of the mid 20th century. Then, millions were imprisoned in a vast system of slave labor spread out over the vastness of Soviet Russia. Hundreds of thousands died and many languished in prison under false charges for decades.
Support the protesters in Russia, who were brave enough to stand up for freedom and justice, and call on the United Nations to inspect Russian prisons and let the world know about the horrific conditions that citizen activists are facing in Russia, just a year before the world comes to Sochi for the Winter Olympics.
There are reports coming from prisoners in Russia that slavery conditions exist in their prisons. This is unacceptable in the 21st century. I call on UNCHR to inspect the prisons and produce a report alerting the international community to what is going on there.