Given the modern times that we live in, someone would be mistaken to assume that a country as big and powerful as Russia would adopt a more restrictive approach when it comes to dealing with feminists. This was not the case in a recent development in southern Russia that saw several feminists arrested on suspicion of breaching public order.
According to Human Rights Watch, the women were arrested and interrogated with the view that they were engaged in extremist activity. The women were later on asked to sign documents which warned them against carrying out any form of extremism.
How It All Started
The women involved were part of a group that was heading over to the Black Sea for a feminist camp that was to last for a week. However, even before they embarked to the camp, some of the women, who had scheduled to go for it, started receiving threats and hate messages through social media. Some of the hate messages alleged that the camp would be attacked if the women went on with their camp as planned. Taisia Simonova, one of the organizers, even received threats on her phone from alleged Cossacks.
Cossacks are a separate ethnic group in Russia and have small semi-military communities in the Southern part of Russia. They usually harass activists and have on occasion worked with the police.
Given the escalation in threats, the organizers decided to cancel the camp altogether, however, the communication was a little bit too late as there were women who had already started travelling to the camp.
Two Consecutive Arrests
Given that it was late to cancel the trip, the women decided to go and meet with other feminists who were already on their way to the camp. They rented out a cottage in Dzhubga, a village near the Black Sea. However, police broke into the cottage and took the women to the police station for their alleged involvement in extremism. The five women, Taisia Simonova included, were questioned and released several hours later without any charges brought against them.
They later on headed over to a camp in the town of Gelendzhik where other feminists were staying. They were then accosted by a group of Cossacks who wanted to see their documents. The women were visibly shaken by this confrontation given the number of threats that they had received earlier on.
When the police arrived and suggested to take the women to the police station, there was a moment of relief and the women agreed. However, when they arrived at the Divnomorskoe police station, the tables turned immediately. The women were treated as suspects and were interrogated about the purpose of their trip. At some point, the police even wanted to fingerprint them. To make matters worse, the police brought some of their friends from the camp and started interrogating them as well. Instead of protecting them, the police were playing along with the Cossacks in disrupting the whole camp. When the women were finally released, it was already dark and they were asked to sign documents saying that they would not engage in any extremist activities.
Feminism In Russia
This particular incident is not the only isolated one in Russia. The country has a long history of feminism that started off in the 80s and spread into the 90s. Feminism during those times was radically different from that of today. They engaged physically with the government and/or institutions that they felt were not advancing equal gender rights, something that feminists nowadays are not involved in. However, they continue to receive admonishment from every sector of the state. How the future will pan out for them remains a mystery, but if Russia is to develop, then they should consider the role that women play, as Malala Yousafafzai said,
“We cannot all succeed when half of us are held back.” – Source: The Guardian
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