Pussy For Everyone! - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Pussy For Everyone!

Pussy For Everyone!

Published August 24, 2012

Jerking their limbs, wearing offensive clothing and conspiring to play a guitar. These are just a few of the charges brought against three members of punk band, Pussy Riot. The three women, who have danced their way into a two-year prison sentence in Russia, have along the way caught the imagination of activists around the world.
Icelandic pussy
In Iceland, four people who protested outside of the Russian embassy on July 11 have been charged under a seldom-used law, which could see them spending up to two years in prison. The charge relates to their “dancing on the flag,” protest organiser Snærós Sindradóttir told The Grapevine. This happened after they successfully took the Russian Embassy’s flag down and replaced it with a balaclava that has become the emblem of the Pussy Riot movement.
The charges were pressed on August 17—the day of Pussy Riot’s conviction—during another protest outside of the Russian embassy in Reykjavík. Snærós and María Lilja Þrastardóttir were approached by a police officer in plain clothing who informed them that they would be facing charges under Article 95 of the Icelandic Penal Code, which states the following:
“Anyone who officially disgraces a foreign nation or a foreign State, its superior official, Head of State, flag or other recognised symbol of nationality, the flag of the United Nations or the flag of the Council of Europe, shall be subject to fines, or imprisonment for up to two years. In case of gross offence the penalty may be imprisonment for up to six years.”
“It is a severe approach,” Snærós said. “I do not think that I have done anything wrong. It is my democratic and human right to protest against injustice.”
 Russian pussy
Meanwhile in Russia, the court’s judge, Marina Syrova found Ekaterina Samutsevich, Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova guilty of “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred and enmity.”
The three women had been detained without bail since they were arrested in March for performing a song, the punk prayer “Holy Shit,” in the pulpit of a Russian Orthodox church on February 21. All of their appeals were rejected, though Maria’s lawyer Nikolai Polozov said, “there is nothing in Russian law that could qualify their actions as criminal. The case is full of procedural violations and they are trying to speed up the hearing to ensure that we don’t have time to respond to them all.”
The minute long performance has since become notorious. It was filmed by several people, edited and put on YouTube with a recorded version of their song over the top. It features five women going into Christ the Saviour Cathedral in Moscow, a few blocks away from the Kremlin, dressed in brightly coloured dresses and knitted balaclavas doing high kicks, or “jerking their limbs in a disrespectful way,” as Judge Marina described it.
Chaplin and Kirill
The video footage posted on YouTube caused outrage in Russia, with the main point of contention being, at least at first, that the women had performed in a sacred part of the church reserved for ordained priests.
On February 22, Vsevolod Chaplin, a senior representative of the Russian Orthodox Church, reportedly stated that the women had violated God’s law and Russia’s anti-extremism law, interpreting the protest as anti-religious rather than politically motivated. In the blog Orthodox Politics, he said: “Now let’s ask politicians if they are ready to do so and if they condemn the performed action. I think that those who won’t denounce it can stop hoping for the support of Orthodox Christians.”
Patriarch Kirill, the highest-ranking member of the clergy also condemned Pussy Riot’s actions, calling them “blasphemous.” In response, the band accused the Patriarch of letting the church become “a tool in dirty electoral intrigues.”
International pussy
Multiple attempts to get the girls released, including that by Amnesty International, which declared the women “prisoners of conscience” were refused, despite mounting media and international attention.
Whilst the world seemed to talk about nothing else, the president of Russia did not acknowledge the case until August 2. While in London, he stated that they should not be punished “too harshly.” Even if Vladimir seems blissfully unaware of the international attention, the accused women seemed to take comfort in it. In her closing statement, Maria told the court, “we are not guilty—the whole world is talking about it.”
In Helsinki, Björk dedicated her song “Declare Independence” to Pussy Riot and told her Facebook followers, “in my opinion the Russian authorities should let them go home to their families and children.”
In Iceland, Reykjavík’s mayor, Jón Gnarr dressed as a Pussy Riot member on a float in our annual Gay Pride parade. He played their punk prayer whilst parading in a bright pink dress and balaclava. Various videos of Jón’s performance received over 100,000 views on YouTube and the performance was reported worldwide.
Elsewhere, protests have been growing fast, with some notable arrests. In France, for instance, three women were arrested last week for wearing balaclavas on the metro in support of Pussy Riot. They are being charged under a new law designed to prevent Muslim women from wearing the niqab or full-face veil.  
The trial
“We are representatives of our generation,” said Maria, whose opening statement to the court went viral. Asked if she understood the charges levied against her, Maria, stared defiantly at the judge and said, “I don’t understand the ideological side of the question.”
“Absurd” was a word that many, including The New York Times, used to describe the trial. Repeatedly denied the right to call on witnesses, make objections and even to speak, the defence lawyers resorted to smirks, shouts and insults. The accused argued from the outset that judge Marina was biased, repeatedly demanding her recusal. She responded by consulting with herself and dismissing the demand.  
Around 100 journalists attended Khamovnichesky Court on August 17 to hear the by now predictable finale: Two years each in prison. The statement took roughly two hours to read out, with sporadic shouts of “shame!”
What happens now?

In what seems like a battle between youth culture and stern faced patriarchs, hackers responded by posting a message denouncing President Vladimir Putin on the Court’s website whilePussy Riot released a new single, “Putin Lights Up the Fires.”
    Although the defence has ten days to appeal the decision, they have made it clear that they plan to go directly to the European Court of Human Rights. The European Union and the US government have said that the sentence is disproportionate. Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov dismissed criticism, saying people should not “go into hysterics” about the case.
    Punk and religion never did sit quietly side by side. More than Madonna’s “Like a Prayer” video filmed in a Catholic church, more than the Sex Pistols on the Queen’s Jubilee, John Lennon’s infamous line “we’re bigger than Jesus” comes to mind in the case of Pussy Riot. Not better, just bigger, more relevant and more representative of youth culture than the Russian authorities dare to realise.

Support The Reykjavík Grapevine!
Book your day tours in Iceland right here!

Next:
Previous:


Go travel with Grapevine tried and recommended tours by Grapevine. Fund Grapevine journalism by booking with us.


Magazine-articles
Articles
Food Of Iceland: Hamburgers

Food Of Iceland: Hamburgers

by

Magazine-articles
Articles
Food Of Iceland: Hjónabandssæla

Food Of Iceland: Hjónabandssæla

by

Show Me More!