‘Toxic masculinity’: Russia targets women behind award-winning play

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Berkovich's supporters have said the state is targeting 'free women'.

Berkovich’s supporters have stated the state is focusing on ‘free women’.

MOSCOW: Yelena Efros has been sending letters to Russian prisons for years, because the chief of a gaggle of volunteers who write common addresses to the nation’s rising variety of political prisoners.

But six months in the past, she discovered herself staring down at a notice she by no means dreamed of writing – a letter to her daughter, imprisoned for an award-winning play she directed in 2020.

Russian authorities arrested Efros’ daughter, the director and playwright Yevgenia Berkovich, in May on expenses of “defending terrorism”.

The offense is punishable by as much as seven years in jail.

“If they had been going to lock anybody up, I assumed it might be me for the letters,” stated Efros, 64, to AFP.

The case towards Berkovich, 38, and fellow playwright Svetlana Petriychuk, 43, stems from their play about Russian women who’re recruited into the Islamic State (IS) group and journey to Syria to marry IS fighters earlier than returning. they on Russia.

According to the title, “Finist, the Brave Falcon” after a Russian folks story, he acquired two “Golden Mask” awards in Russia.

But there was little essential acclaim since Moscow stepped up its marketing campaign towards artists and cultural figures amid its army offensive in Ukraine.

Actors, administrators, writers and performers have seen their work censored, prized, exiled or arrested.

Rights teams say the case towards Berkovich and Petrychuk is very controversial.

The expenses stem from a linguistic evaluation of the play utilizing a fringe analysis methodology on extremism and terrorism often called “destructology”.

Dismissed as pseudoscience by its critics, an evaluation primarily based on its method discovered that the play promoted the Islamic State and promoted “radical feminism”.

Lawyers dismissed the concept as absurd.

A justice ministry company additionally rejected that preliminary interpretation, and prosecutors are searching for to maintain each Berkovich and Petriychuk in jail whereas a brand new examine is accomplished.

Far from “justifying terrorism”, the play is a transparent criticism of the Islamic State and a cautionary story about younger Russian Muslim women recruited to affix the ranks, Berkovich and his supporters argue.

– Nightmares –

Last week, Efros traveled from her house in St. Petersburg to Moscow for a courtroom listening to relating to the extension of her daughter’s pretrial detention.

About 20 of Berkovich’s supporters additionally arrived, some chanting “we love you” as she was led into courtroom in handcuffs.

Berkovich urged the decide to permit her to return house to her two adopted daughters whereas she awaits her trial.

“Two sick youngsters had been taken from their mom six months in the past… It’s torture,” she stated.

Berkovich adopted the 2 ladies, now of their late teenagers, 4 years in the past after they spent most of their lives biking by means of Russian orphanages and foster houses.

Her younger daughter lately began having nightmares about seeing her mom dying in jail, a psychologist advised the courtroom.

Prosecutors, who appeared to lack the proof, welcomed the courtroom’s ruling to increase pre-trial detention till January 10.

“Happy New Year to you,” Berkovich shouted from a glass cage in courtroom after the decide learn the ruling.

Before he was returned to the jail, Efros went to the glass cage the place Berkovich was being held and positioned his hand towards her daughter’s arm on the opposite facet.

The two exchanged “Meow” — the household’s code phrase for affection, stemming from their love of cats.

“The decide has no conscience, he has no energy, they’re simply appearing a pre-planned program,” Efros stated outdoors the room.

Berkovich’s lawyer, Ksenia Karpinskaya, stated she couldn’t perceive “such cruelty”.

– ‘poisonous masculinity’ –

Berkovich comes from a big household of activists on each side.

Efros’ mom, Nina Katerli, was a author who fought for human rights and towards anti-Semitism within the Soviet Union and within the Nineteen Nineties.

After the listening to and earlier than they boarded an in a single day prepare again to St. Petersburg, Efros shared a number of the letters the pair had been sending to AFP.

Among them, Berkovich gently introduces her mom to a sitcom she began watching.

They by no means say they love one another — “not our approach,” Efros famous — as a substitute utilizing pet nicknames, soft-sounding derivatives of “kot,” the Russian phrase for cat. .

The case towards her daughter is an indication that Russia is focusing on “free women” — those that refuse to “know that their place is within the kitchen,” Efros stated.

“Toxic masculinity” has flourished in Russia since February 24, 2022, when Moscow despatched its troops into Ukraine, she stated.

“Our nation is heading in the direction of an archaic conventional society — Domostroy — the place feminism is clearly unhealthy,” Efros stated, referring to a sixteenth-century Russian home code that inspired males to maintain their wives and kids hit

She sees similarities between this pattern and the drama Berkovich is being punished for.

“It’s a form of fundamentalism – it could possibly be Islamic fundamentalism, however it would not must be, it may be Orthodox fundamentalism, or simply easy fundamentalism,” she stated.

“Radical feminism, from the perspective of those folks, is unhealthy.”

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