Why Pussy Riot matters
August 17th, 2012
01:17 PM ET

Why Pussy Riot matters

By Michelle Ringuette, Special to CNN

Editor's note: Michelle Ringuette is chief of campaigns and programs at Amnesty International USA. The views expressed are her own.

All eyes were on Moscow this morning as Maria Alekhina, Yekaterina Samutsevich and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, members of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot, were found guilty and sentenced to two years' imprisonment. For What? Performing a peaceful protest song in a Russian Orthodox Cathedral that lasted less than a minute.

Most agreed that the court wouldn't rule in the women's favor; they themselves had predicted a guilty verdict. Already, Russian authorities had unjustly detained these women, stealing them away from their families and children, and orchestrated a legal process that tiptoed the line on international fair trial standards.

Say what you will about Pussy Riot: this might not be your kind of music. Their actions might offend you. But this doesn't change the fact that freedom of expression, in whatever peaceful form it takes, is a human right, and one on which the protection of other rights rests.
Since assuming office in May, President Vladimir Putin has blatantly rejected the call of hundreds of thousands of Russian citizens. Citizens who, in some of the largest demonstrations the country has ever seen, demanded a more open and tolerant society, an end to a reticent and repressive regime. In response, Putin tightened his fist, signing laws that levy exorbitant fines on unsanctioned public meetings, crack down on dissent and restrict the actions of NGOs that provide vital public services.

Amidst this backdrop of increasing efforts to silence the voice of the people, the message of Pussy Riot has sounded loud and clear.

The world has galvanized behind the band members, from Paul McCartney to Faith No More, Anthony Bourdain to Madonna, to hundreds of thousands of others around the world who have called on Russian authorities to release these women. Why? Because Pussy Riot is much more than a group of punk rockers wearing brightly-colored balaclavas. They are mothers, performers, and activists who want a say in their government and the laws that permeate their lives. They are each and every one of us.

In Russia and beyond, individuals who were never civically active are stopping to discuss the importance of political participation and the institutions which impact their lives. Punk rockers and Orthodox Christian leaders alike, emboldened  by the tidal wave of global solidarity and weary of the shrinking space for expression, have said enough is enough.

Though Masha, Nadia and Katya were sentenced to prison today, we won't allow these women to be silenced,  Their message will continue to be heard. It wasn't just Pussy Riot on trial; it was freedom of expression and the human rights of everyday citizens in Russia.

As Maria stated in her closing statement, all today's verdict could achieve is to rob these women of a "so-called" freedom. True freedom has been spoken. It lives in the world and will go on living "thanks to openness, with every person who is not indifferent, who hears us in this country... these things will make all of us just a little bit more free. We will see this yet."

Post by:
Topics: Russia

soundoff (406 Responses)
  1. Phil

    As empathetic we would like to be towards these women, if one looks at the history of their (and the larger group they belong to) "protests", one will see that they truly are hooligans and had this coming (small wonder?).

    They have a sordid history of indecent exposure, public nudity, assaulting citizens with body excrements, and the like.

    Yes, Russia needs to have free-er speech but their illegals acts are not justified.

    August 21, 2012 at 3:25 pm | Reply
  2. Fritz Hohenheim

    I think there's more to it than just the Russian pseudo democracy. In fact they would have been found equally guilty of blasphemy in countries like Germany (I know for a fact) and probably in many other European countries. I'm not sure whether the USA has blasphemy laws or not. In theory they shouldnt but with all the christianity running wild, it's possible that there are.
    Disturbances of the peace and tresspassing should be treated just like that, regardless of whether it happens in a Walmart or in a church. Churches should not have special protection anywhere in the free world

    August 21, 2012 at 3:34 pm | Reply
  3. Lena

    For all those who are so lovingly and ardently defending the rights of the worshippers, please be aware that these are one sided rights – and I don't mean in comparison with the three women either. Do you know that it is illegal to start any other kind of church in modern Russia (other than Russian Orthodox) unless you can prove that it had already existed there prior to the revolution of 1917 and it was forced to close due to the Communists? So, that means the only people who have religious freedom and whose right to worship in peace is to be respected are the Russian Orthodox Christians. How convenient! They are also the ones who call Putin a "gift from God." I am not defending what the women did, but if we're going to defend worshippers, let's defend all worshippers equally. Otherwise, it's just all politics.

    August 21, 2012 at 4:44 pm | Reply
  4. truegrit1

    Ms Ringuette is, like the 3 girls jailed, clearly misguided. This isn't about music, it's about being able to distinguish between Protest & Anarchy. They violated a property that was not theirs. They are no different than graffiti spray painters. This is a trivial issue that is only important to a miniscule minority and the State Deparftment's foreign policy toward Russia.

    There are many more worthy and true human rights violations by friends of Washington, that Ms Ringuette chose to overlook. I'll list a few.
    For months Bahrainis have been in the streets protesting their regime and being killed, wounded, jailed and tortured. Saudi military are in Bahrain for this purpose.
    For months Saudis have protested in the eastern provinces suffering the same.
    The Syrian opposition forces have been committing the same atrocities as the Syrian military.. Israelis have immolated themselves in the street protesting the Netanyu regime. My advice to Ms Ringuette is this, don't drink the Kool Aid, also go after the atrocities that friends of Washington commit.

    August 22, 2012 at 12:16 am | Reply
    • Andrey

      They expect that publicly hating everything Russian will earn them tickets to US. They might be right!

      August 22, 2012 at 11:45 pm | Reply
  5. hyipnew365.com

    I feel this is among the such a lot significant info for me. And i'm happy reading your article. However should commentary on few common things, The web site style is wonderful, the articles is really nice : D. Just right job, cheers

    August 22, 2012 at 12:52 am | Reply
  6. sam kohen

    I find the sentence to be too lenient.Had it been Uncle Stalin they would have received at least 30 years.Had it been Mr Brezhnev at least 15 years. Either one would have been more appropriate then what they just got.

    August 22, 2012 at 9:15 am | Reply
    • Andrey

      They are cowards: they would have never done it in Stalin's time! That would never even cross their minds! You are just talking total nonsense!

      August 22, 2012 at 11:42 pm | Reply
      • Isaac

        The only 'coward" is Putin because he is afraid of 3 women.

        August 25, 2012 at 12:24 pm |
  7. NO INDIANS IN MY NEIGHBORHOOD PLEASE

    In some Haryana villages in India, the young girls are routinely threatened, abused and killed all under Khap (tribe/clan) verdicts. It is acceptable for the families to feed pesticide pills to the teenage girls and then dispose off their bodies by burning them without any police records.

    August 22, 2012 at 12:18 pm | Reply
  8. obat rematik

    hi!,I love your writing very much! share we communicate extra approximately your article on AOL? I require an expert in this space to solve my problem. Maybe that's you! Having a look ahead to look you.

    August 25, 2012 at 7:34 pm | Reply
  9. How To Drop Ship How To Drop Shipping

    Woah this blog is magnificent i love reading your posts. Keep up the great work! You know, a lot of persons are looking around for this info, you could aid them greatly.

    August 26, 2012 at 9:46 pm | Reply
  10. acougue

    I don't even know the way I ended up right here, however I believed this post was once great. I don't recognise who you might be but certainly you're going to a famous blogger for those who are not already. Cheers!

    August 27, 2012 at 2:19 pm | Reply
  11. dudley

    IN Russia they have bigger problems than this and are probably glad to be rid of these musicians.

    August 28, 2012 at 12:36 am | Reply
  12. Usain Bolt

    I saw public opinion poll among russian people.
    34% think that it was hooliganism. 24% think that it was sacrilege. 15% – the desire to become famous. 11% – political action. 4% – extremism.
    This suggests that they do not have the support of their fellow citizens.

    August 29, 2012 at 4:00 pm | Reply
  13. Vaynet Sohbet

    I will immediately seize your rss as I can not to find your email subscription hyperlink or newsletter service. Do you have any? Please let me realize in order that I may subscribe. Thanks.

    August 29, 2012 at 10:12 pm | Reply
  14. free|riot|points

    Simply wish to say your article is as astonishing. The clarity to your submit is simply great and i could assume you're a professional in this subject. Well with your permission allow me to grasp your feed to stay updated with impending post. Thanks one million and please keep up the enjoyable work.

    September 1, 2012 at 6:37 pm | Reply
  15. beds cape town

    Pretty part of content. I simply stumbled upon your blog and in accession capital to say that I acquire in fact enjoyed account your weblog posts. Any way I'll be subscribing for your augment and even I achievement you get entry to consistently quickly.

    September 29, 2012 at 7:14 am | Reply
  16. cremas intimas femeninas

    Unquestionably imagine that that you stated. Your favorite justification appeared to be on the net the easiest factor to consider of. I say to you, I certainly get annoyed at the same time as people consider issues that they just don't understand about. You controlled to hit the nail upon the top and outlined out the entire thing with no need side effect , people could take a signal. Will likely be back to get more. Thank you

    March 19, 2013 at 5:11 pm | Reply
1 2 3 4 5 6

Post a comment


 

CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 4,532 other followers