Pussy Riot to Appear at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center

by Winnie McCroy
EDGE Editor
Tuesday Jan 28, 2014

The freed members of the band Pussy Riot will speak at a Feb. 5 Amnesty International Concert at Brooklyn's Barclays Center. Members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Aloykhina will take the stage to talk about prisoners of conscience, after spending 21 months in a Russian prison for protesting President Vladimir Putin.

"We are happy to support Amnesty International's work on behalf of human rights and political prisoners," a statement from the women said. "We, more than anyone, understand how important Amnesty's work is in connecting activists to prisoners. A month ago we were freed from Russian prison camps. We will never forget what it's like to be in prison after a political conviction."

Alyokhina, 25, and Tolokonnikova, 24, were jailed for "hooliganism motivated by religious hatred" after an anti-Putin protest in Moscow's main cathedral. Their arrest sparked an international outcry, and after Putin released them, they vowed to continue their political work.

Both women attempted to stay in prison until their sentence expired in February to research conditions there. They have criticized the amnesty as a political stunt to boost Putin's image before the Winter Olympics in Sochi.

According to the Huffington Post, Pussy Riot will no longer focus on music, and will instead work toward human rights. In September, Tolokonnikova went on a hunger strike in Mordovia, and reportedly won, as convicts will now accrue salary based on a new tariff, and a special commission was formed to revise the rules. The Federal Prison Services said that these changes had nothing to do with her strike.

Buzzfeed reported that since their release, the women have announced plans to set up a human rights organization Zone of Law to improve prison conditions in Russia.

"We intend to help with the advancement and reaction to complaints of prisoners about the conditions of their incarceration," Tolokonnikova said. "We want to provide them with legal aid."

Tolokonnikova shocked the country and sparked calls for far-ranging reform in September when she wrote an open letter detailing "slavery-like" conditions in her prison colony in the central province of Mordovia. Officials subsequently sent her to Siberia in an elaborate land route and kept her incognito for nearly a month. Alyokhina also complained of poor conditions and pressure from wardens and inmates against her at her prison in Perm province in the Ural Mountains before being transferred.

Amnesty International announced the return of its Human Rights Concert earlier this month. From 1986 to 1998, the organization staged concerts to raise awareness of human rights. Performers at those shows included U2, Sting, Peter Gabriel, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, New Kids on the Block and Radiohead, among many others.

The concert will take place at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Feb. 5. The Flaming Lips, Lauryn Hill, and Imagine Dragons are among the musicians set to perform at the concert, which aims to raise awareness around these issues. Also on the bill are appearances by Tegan and Sara, the Fray, Cold War Kids, Cobie Caillat and Cake.

For more information, visit http://www.amnestyusa.org/Feb5Concert/?msource=W14CONBZZ1

Winnie McCroy is the Women on the EDGE Editor, HIV/Health Editor, and Assistant Entertainment Editor for EDGE Media Network, handling all women's news, HIV health stories and theater reviews throughout the U.S. She has contributed to other publications, including The Village Voice, Gay City News, Chelsea Now and The Advocate, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.


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