Former political prisoner about hunger strike in Russian jail

Author : Gennady Afanasiev

Source : 112 Ukraine

Gennadiy Afanasiev: hunger strike in prison means going to extremes, when no other measures work
12:10, 9 September 2016

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Hunger strike is a test. This is an exam on patience and psychological stability. It is an examination of your readiness for reaching the goal. Whether you are ready to bite the bullet. Whether you are ready to risk and to die in order to achieve your goal.

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But before declaring the hunger strike, you must think first of how and when you should do it, to whom it might concern.

The hunger strike in prison means going to extremes, when no other measures can help. You should always have a significant reason. Without it, your hunger strike will be meaningless and ridiculous.

The hunger strike could be legal or illegal. If your reasons for hunger are objective, theoretically the prosecutor might state that your rights are really violated, and remove the causes of the violation. In fact, the prosecutors are the part of the system, which covers the realities of the penal colony. So hope for some changes through the law enforcement representative are quite useless.

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Why is the administration makes any concessions to stop your hunger strike?

There are plenty of violations in each penal colony. These are lack of adequate living conditions, lack of "edible" food, medical care, phone calls, “invasion” of bedbugs and cockroaches, and etc. But all these facts do not threat your life. Very often, the penal personnel tries to provoke, threaten, mock, and despise you. They might take off all your clothes during the search, to squat naked in front of guards. They might also take away your personal belongings. For example, you go for a walk, and come back to the camera and realize that they have taken the pictures of your relatives. And the guards reply that they know nothing about this disappearance. Of course, they are stolen.

And sometimes it goes too far. They might say that your beard cannot be longer than 3 millimeters, or your hair cannot be longer than 1 centimeter. If you refuse to shave, few big boys with a razor come and shave your hair and your skin, without the cream or gel... Or they forcefully take off your pants with and underwear, bring a prisoner with erection (who collaborates with the colony administration), and give you a choice to sign what they need or not to sign…

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And what can you do to change this lawlessness? One of the options is a hunger strike.

Firstly, it is necessary to notify the rest of the prisoners and clarify your reason; if your idea to go on hunger strike is reasonable, the convicts will definitely support you. And this is serious sign for the administration.

Secondly, you the need to write a statement to the head of the administration explaining the reasons for his hunger strike. This declaration is later attached to the personal file, and, according to the law, you have to call the prosecutor's oversight committee that has to listened to your complaints. Of course, in practice, it does not work.

When the prosecutor and special commission come, they see the real facts of the violations. And the heads of administration have pain in the neck.

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Three times have I declared the hunger strike. First, when half of people from the barrack were ill with Swine influenza (I was ill too), and no treatment was provided. The goal was to take the analysis and the provision of treatment. Second time in April 2016, when I was brutally forced to take Russian citizenship. I demanded from consul his confirmation of my status of citizen of Ukraine.

For the third time in May 2016, when I was transferred to Lefortovo in Moscow; the law enforcers intimidated me and said that they “will teach me how to behave.” I demanded to call the Public Oversight Commission and my family about my whereabouts.

It seems that there is a very easy to stop eating. In fact, it is not.

The first day, you feel okay, but in the afternoon you feel the headache. It aches constantly and tirelessly, and you understand why is it so, and your mind says you to stop your hunger strike and eat something. Different seductive thoughts appear in your head. To make it easier to carry, I drank more than 5 liters of water per day. The night of the first day was terrible, because my head ached so badly that it was impossible to sleep, and no one was going to give me a painkiller.

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The next day was better, I decided to stop in for sports or go for a walk, just to save life power. The head did not hurt, and I even did no want to eat. It took another two days. The very rapid exhaustion forced me to sleep a lot. I put the newspapers on the floor and slept on them. Why the newspapers? Because this is an old technology of a convict. First you warm the newspapers, and then they warm you. Heat exchange.

When fell asleep, I dreamed of food. The most delicious food in the world. I dreamed that this food was on my table. On the fifth day, I felt a terrible stomachache, unbearable pain! These were incredible spasms that lasted continuously, even in the toilet, I could not walk. I suffered… I had a desire to eat at least something... But I just had no right to give up! I On the sixth day the pain disappeared, and I just felt indifferent. I have lost my power. The administration did not react. This fact confused me.

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I have lost over 8 kg. Just in a week my arms looked like bones covered with leather. I remember a very strange dream of those days that I climb into the closet, and find some cat food in the corner. I even felt the smell of that food! In the morning I was just mad, I wanted to eat at least a piece of the cat food! When I was freed, I even tried a few pieces of my cat’s food. It really turned out to be delicious, as in the dream.

In afternoon, the law enforcers came into my camera, and I told to the administration that I am not going to stop my hunger strike until the consul of Ukraine comes. They took me into a separate room and tried to persuade to eat something. They said that according to the law of the Russian Federation, I am a citizen of this country, and I cannot do anything to change it. The law enforcers promised that Uruguay would issue me the citizenship, but I replied that I am a citizen of Ukraine already. They offered me to write an appeal to the Ukrainian people and to talk briefly about the pressure exerted on me, and then go back to eating. And I agreed. You can find this video on the Internet. Now I am back home. In Ukraine.

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