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Russia / Syria

Russian Artists Sentenced for Play on ISIS Brides, Sparking Outcry

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Russian playwright Svetlana Petrijtschuk and theater director Yevgenia Berkovich have been sentenced to six years in prison for their play on ISIS brides, amidst a broader crackdown on anti-war voices.

Russian Cultural Figures Sentenced for 'Justifying Terrorism'

In a significant blow to artistic freedom in Russia, playwright Svetlana Petrijtschuk and theater director Yevgenia Berkovich have been sentenced to six years in prison. The charges stem from their play 'Finist, the Brave Falcon,' which explores the lives of Russian women who married members of the terrorist organization Islamic State.

The Play and Its Controversy

The play, which was performed in 2020 and received the prestigious Golden Mask award, is based on real-life cases and court interrogations. It tells the story of 'ISIS brides'—Russian women who traveled to Syria to marry Islamic State members they met online. Despite its initial acceptance and support from the Russian Ministry of Culture, the play has now been criticized by state-appointed experts for allegedly promoting 'radical feminist ideology' and glorifying terrorists.

Broader Repression of Anti-War Voices

The trial of Berkovich and Petrijtschuk is part of a wider crackdown on dissenting voices in Russia, especially those opposing President Vladimir Putin's policies and the invasion of Ukraine. Many artists who have spoken out against the war have been blacklisted, fired from state-funded institutions, or faced other forms of persecution. Berkovich herself has been an outspoken critic of the war, participating in anti-war demonstrations and writing anti-war poems.

Legal and Personal Repercussions

The defense team, led by lawyer Ksenia Karpinskaya, plans to appeal the verdict, although they hold little hope for a reversal. The sentences have significant personal ramifications for both women. Berkovich is raising two adopted children and has elderly family members she fears she may never see again. The trial has also drawn international attention, with notable figures like Nobel Peace Prize co-winner Dmitri Mouratov and exiled director Kirill Serebrennikov advocating for their release.

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