It’s been over a year since members of the Russian feminist punk rock band/protest art group Pussy Riot were each given two-year prison sentences for nothing more than 40 seconds of dancing inside of a Russian Orthodox Church. Today, Pussy Riot member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova declared a hunger strike in response to unjust treatment and inhumane conditions at Penal Colony No 14, one of the worst in all of Russia.

In an open letter published on the Guardian, Tolokonnikova goes into great detail explaining the extent of her brutal work conditions and unfair labor expectations. She describes the prisoners working 16-17 hours a day, sewing hundreds upon hundreds of police uniforms “using physically and morally exhausted machinery” and getting as little as four hours of sleep a night.

The prisoners in the camp were also fed “stale bread, heavily watered-down milk, exclusively rusted millet and rotten potatoes.” Tolokonnikova describes abuse of the workers, including an incident when “a young woman got stabbed in the head with a pair of scissors because she didn’t turn in a pair of pants on time” driving the prisoners to desperation, as one woman “attempted to cut open her own stomach with a hacksaw.”

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova officially declares:

 …beginning 23 September, I am going on hunger strike and refusing to participate in colony slave labor. I will do this until the administration starts obeying the law and stops treating incarcerated women like cattle ejected from the realm of justice for the purpose of stoking the production of the sewing industry; until they start treating us like humans.

[UPDATE: Here's a much more in-depth translation of Nadezhda Tolokonnikova's letter by n+1's Bela Shayevich]

(Image: Salon)