Andrey Rylkov Foundation
for Health and Social Justice
Русский

A number of pickets were held in front of the Ministry of Health of Russian Federation in Moscow as a part of the “Support Don’t Punish” campaign.

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On June 26 the participants and staff of the Andrey Rylkov Foundation once again joined the international action “Support. Don’t Punish”.

On that date the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking is being celebrated which was established by the UN General Assembly in 1987. Coincidentally, June 26 is also the day declared by the UN as the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.

Support. Don’t Punish is a worldwide action, which takes place on this day for several years in dozens of countries around the world. The purpose of this action is to make visible the various problems caused by repressive drug policy. It calls to end the War on Drugs, which in all countries supporting its concept comes down to a war on people who use drugs. War, harassment, violence – it doesn’t work! People need support, not punishment. In order for the situation to change, we need a humane drug policy based on tolerance, protection of health, dignity and human rights.

ARF has been taking part in this action for 4 years running. This time, ARF participants held one-person pickets in front of the Ministry of Health of the Russian Federation in Moscow. We want to share with you the photos and feedback from the picket participants.

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Olga: It was a great pleasure for me to participate in this action because I believe it is important to talk about this problem and involve as many people as possible to support drug users. I hope that someday we will be heard.

We prepared our protest signs and stood in front of the Ministry. A number of journalists supported us standing nearby. A guard came out and took photos of us. Passers-by read our slogans, some of them turned a blind eye, some looked surprised and shook their heads. A few people even asked about the purpose of our action. They agreed that support is more effective than repressive policies, but didn’t believe that pickets could help to change the situation. One man asked what he could do to support our idea and took our business card. While we were talking, another young man approached and emotionally told us that too many young guys are being prosecuted on the drug criminal cases, that this is not the only problem of the state and that he worries a lot about the overall situation. Many passers-by, apparently hearing our conversation, advised us to move closer to the Ministry of Internal Affairs because they considered it as a more relevant target for our advocacy in that case. It was great to find supporters!

Frankly speaking, we expected to have some conversation with police but we didn’t manage to have any. Perhaps, because the police cars arrived too late: policemen were talking to each other and looking around but we were already packing our stuff, chucking on the other side of the street.

We didn’t manage to get to the Ministry of Internal Affairs because it started to heavily rain. Although we managed to send them our appeal as we always do on that day.

Ezhi: It was important for me to participate in the picket on this day, although the Ministry of Health doesn’t give a fuck about it (so it seems to me). But, at least it is an opportunity to attract the attention of passers-by to the problem of repressive drug policy in the Russian Federation, to talk with them – maybe at least someone will think about it after looking at our posters and reading our signs. The action itself wasn’t loud: we hold the pickets around the building of the MoH, the guards came to talk with us (and even took photos of some of us, as always), and there were also some benches around the building that was very useful for a piteous person like me because I could just sit with my protest signs for a while quite comfortably.

I was upset by a couple of discussions (with a guard and a passer-by), because my companions broadcasted all possible stereotypes about drug users (that drug dependency is not a disease, drug users aren’t forced to take drugs / they aren’t people / they should be isolated), and, despite all my arguments, they didn’t change their opinion, and the guard seemed a little upset when I told him that I had used drugs before myself and had been able to give up drug use thanks to support of family and friends, who didn’t have to handcuff me to the radiator. But somehow it was not aggressive, and in the end, they even wished us good luck. There were all kinds of people: some of them just walked by like “it-doesn’t-concern-me” type, but a lot of people smiled and supported us. A local homeless man Casper supported our action by joining with his own sign, although it was saying “please give me money for booze”. Well, yes, I just love it when we all gather like that (though it’s a pity that there are still so many problems that cause us to held pickets)!

Anna: In addition to expressing a civil position, one-man pickets are valuable for me as an opportunity to establish a dialog with the society, especially with people whom we don’t get many opportunities to meet in our daily life. Words of support from young people passing by inspire hope for change. In the absence of a public space for discussions in Russia, I want to believe that even such small actions contribute to translating the concept of human rights and the principles of humanity as an alternative to repressive approaches against drug users.

Lucy: I decided to join “Support Don’t Punish” action together with the activists from Andrey Rylkov Foundation who protect the rights of people who use drugs.

Russian drug policy, especially when it concerns my peers, can be described as a police terror. Any young guy or a girl immediately becomes a suspect under Article 228 in the eyes of law enforcement officers, which gives policemen the right to treat young people as an easy prey or second-class people.

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