On the 15th of May 2018, one month before Russia celebrated the opening of the 2018 FIFA World Cup, Oleg Sentsov began an indefinite hunger strike, which continues today — not only to protest his own imprisonment, but that of nearly 70 compatriots, fellow Ukrainian artists, actors, political prisoners. And, today, Sentsov is battling towards the tenth week of his hunger strike. Artists and film-makers around the world have joined with advocates of freedom of the press, freedom of authors, freedom of human beings to protest the questionable cause and transparency of this imprisonment, states Michele. Different Truths expresses its solidarity with the author and countless others around the world.
They say all good movies and books begin with a conflict of some sort, some cliff-edge situation, where lives hang in the balance. This story is no exception. Four years ago, on May 2014, Oleg Sentsov, Ukrainian filmmaker, was arrested in his home in the Crimea, tried and imprisoned on charges of terrorism, which he has consistently denied. Though the prosecution’s main witness recanted his testimony, saying it had been extracted under torture, the Russian court sentenced Oleg Sentsov to 20 years imprisonment in the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous District, Siberia, above the Arctic Circle, about 2,000 miles from Crimea — his extradition to Ukraine denied in October 2016 since he was deemed a Russian citizen-by-annexation. On the 15th of May 2018, one month before Russia celebrated the opening of the 2018 FIFA World Cup, Sentsov began an indefinite hunger strike, which continues today —not only to protest his own imprisonment, but that of nearly 70 compatriots, fellow Ukrainian artists, actors, political prisoners. And, today, Sentsov is battling towards the tenth week of his hunger strike. Artists and film-makers around the world have joined with advocates of freedom of the press, freedom of authors, freedom of human beings to protest the questionable cause and transparency of this imprisonment, and so many like it.
As in all good stories, there are heroes, anti-heroes, cynics, experts, optimists, and probably lots of people somewhere in between—and, always, it seems there will never be enough time to sort them all out before disaster strikes. People are still being tried and found guilty on charges of espionage; people are still being sentenced to imprisonment merely for charges which may be politically motivated. Yet around the world artists, actors, theatrical companies like Teatr.Doc, still speak out regardless of harassment. Because what there is time for, what there must always be time for, is to ponder what is meant by “human rights.”
Do human rights include freedom of speech, and, by extension, freedom of artistic expression? Do human rights include rights of equality under the law, rights to a fair and just system of laws, rights not to be falsely accused, tortured, separated by thousands of miles from all people whom you hold dear, all places where your heart finds peace? Are human rights subject to national sovereignty, to localized bias? Or are human rights something beyond nation, beyond culture, creed, class, and caste? Are concepts of universal rights somehow beyond constrictions of genetic capacity, ability, disability, association or access? Are human rights not limited by inclusion within, or exclusion from, or migration across national boundaries? If people do not harm others, nor abridge the rights of others, if they do not subject others to cruelties or crimes which deny the rights and safety of others, are they entitled, equally, to human rights of safety, justice, the rule of law? Do these laws speak for those who cannot speak for themselves, or does the rule of loud silence and supplant them?
If human rights are not merely fancy words scripted to make empowered and entitled people feel good about regional declarations, and national or local laws which uphold access to various interpretations of “justice” accorded to the peoples not disadvantaged, or marginalized by those same systems, then we, of whatever nation, of whatever demographic, of whatever talent or taste or tenacity, must do what we can to understand, to promote the understanding of, and to shout for the defence of these rights, to the extent of our abilities, whatever these may be. For if we do not observe and uphold the fundamental rights to life and freedom of our brothers and sisters, of the voiceless among our fellow Earth creatures, who will?
Oleg Sentsov is entering the tenth week of a hunger strike, to protest injustice, to defend himself and others from the abrogation of the “universal human rights” in which people all across this planet we share have been told we can trust. Oleg Sentsov hungers for justice and denies himself food to attempt to elevate the importance of those rights and liberties which he has been denied. We, who are free to read this, to discuss it while we indulge in a cup of coffee with colleagues, a meal with family or friends, must speak out as well.
Illustration by the author and photos from the Internet
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