‘Justifying terrorism’: Russian playwright and director held for playing Islamic State wives play

A Russian military court sentenced playwright Svetlana Petriychuk and theater director Yevgenia Berkovich to six years in prison on Monday, finding them guilty of “justifying terrorism” through their play “Finist the Brave Falcon.”
Petriychuk, 44, and Berkovich, 39, have been in custody since May 2023. They were accused of promoting terrorism through their adaptation of a classic fairy tale, which tells the stories of Russian women lured online to join the Islamic State group.Prosecutor Ekaterina Denisova claimed Petriychuk held “extremely aggressive Islamic ideologies” and that Berkovich justified and propagated terrorism. The court also banned both women from “administering websites” for three years after their release.
“Finist the Brave Falcon” premiered in 2020 and won two Golden Mask awards, the highest honor in Russian theater. The play’s main character, feeling betrayed by her recruiter, returns to Russia only to be imprisoned as a terrorist. Both Petriychuk and Berkovich insisted the play had an anti-terror message.
“I absolutely do not understand what this set of words has to do with me,” said Berkovich, when she pleaded not guilty. “I have never partaken in any forms of Islam: neither radical nor any other. I have respect for the religion of Islam, and I feel nothing but condemnation and disgust toward terrorists.”
The trial, held partly behind closed doors, heightened concerns about freedom of expression in Russia. Defense lawyer Ksenia Karpinskaya described the hearing as “absolutely illegal” and “unfair,” pledging to appeal despite “little hope.”
The case has been condemned by prominent Russian intellectuals and performers, including Nobel Peace Prize laureate Dmitry A. Muratov and actress Yulia Peresild. Supporters suggest Berkovich’s prosecution may be linked to her critical poems about Russia’s military offensive in Ukraine.
Since the invasion of Ukraine, Russia’s artistic community has faced increasing pressure from the Kremlin. The crackdown has effectively criminalized anti-war sentiment, and more than 99% of criminal trials in Russia result in convictions.
The sentencing occurs amid recent deadly attacks by Islamist militants in Moscow and Dagestan, with the Kremlin suggesting unsubstantiated links to Ukraine. The case exemplifies the broader repression of dissent and artistic expression in Russia, drawing international attention and criticism.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

GreenLeaf Tw2sl