To mark World Poetry Day on Thursday, all this week we are paying tribute to poets who have been persecuted or imprisoned in violation of their right to free expression. Today we honour Russian poet and activist Maria Alyokhina.
In February 2012, a group of activists from the Russian punk collective Pussy Riot performed their Punk Prayer denouncing the Russian Orthodox Church’s support for President Vladimir Putin in a Moscow Cathedral. Three members of the group, including Maria Alyokhina, were subsequently arrested on charges of hooliganism and sentenced to two years in prison. Over a year later and in spite of an outpouring of international support, both Alyokhina and fellow Pussy Riot member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova remain detained in remote penal colonies far from Moscow and their young children.
English PEN and our colleagues at PEN International consider the harsh sentences against Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova to be in retaliation for the criticisms the band have made of Putin and the Orthodox Church, and therefore in breach of the International Convention on Political and Civil Rights, to which Russia is a signatory. We continue to call on the Russian authorities to release them immediately and unconditionally. We are also calling for all charges against Pussy Riot member Yekaterina Samutsevich, whose sentence was suspended following an appeal in October, to be dropped.
Poems for Pussy Riot
To rally support for Pussy Riot, English PEN launched the Poems for Pussy Riot project, inviting poets from all over the world to write creative responses to the case. We received more than 100 submissions within a matter of weeks, which we posted as daily online tributes to the band on our website,and published as an e-book and print-on-demand collection Catechism: Poems for Pussy Riot. We’d love more coverage for the anthology and Pussy Riot’s case, so please do consider voting for us as Best Poetry Anthology or Best One-Off Literary Project in the 2013 Sabotage Awards or sparing a few moments to rate and review ‘Catechism: Poems for Pussy Riot’ on Lulu. And please help us to keep the Pussy Riot conversation alive by downloading, reading, sharing, tweeting, translating and remixing our Poems for Pussy Riot…
Read Maria Alyokhina’s work
Read three poems by Maria Alyokhina and the lyrics of Pussy Riot song “Death to Prison, Freedom to Protest” over on the Huffington Post.
Send a letter of appeal
– Highlighting the fact that the continued detention of Pussy Riot members Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova violates their right to free expression, and is therefore in breach of international conventions, specifically Article 19 of the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, to which Russia is a signatory;
– Calling for the immediate and unconditional release of both Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova, and the complete dismissal of the charges against all three women.
You can send messages to President Putin via the Kremlin website or to the following address:
President Vladimir Putin
President of the Russian Federation
23, Ilyinka Street,
We would also recommend that you write to the Russian Embassy in the UK:
His Excellency Dr Alexander Vladimirovich Yakovenko
6/7 Kensington Palace Gardens,
Fax: 020 7727 8625
Email: c/o email@example.com
Or you could use the form below. A sample letter is provided but it is always better if you put the appeal in your own words.
[ecampaign ‘to= firstname.lastname@example.org‘ subject=”Free Pussy Riot”]
I am writing to you as a supporter of English PEN to express my grave concern for the detained members of Pussy Riot and to call for their immediate and unconditional release.
According to PEN’s information, in February 2012 a group of activists from the punk collective Pussy Riot staged a protest in a Moscow Cathedral, denouncing the Russian Orthodox Church’s support for President Vladimir Putin. They were arrested on charges of hooliganism and later sentenced to two years in prison. More than one year on from the performance, two members of the group, Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, remain detained in remote penal colonies, far from Moscow and their young children.
I consider the harsh sentences to be in retaliation for the criticisms the band have made of President Putin and the Orthodox Church. I firmly believe that all three women have been sentenced in violation of their right to free expression, in violation of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to which Russia is a signatory. I am therefore calling on the Russian authorities to release Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova immediately and unconditionally, and for all charges against fellow band member Yekaterina Samutsevich to be dropped.
I would welcome your comments on my appeal.