July 18, 2024

Since the partial mobilization in Russia, feminists have been helping men to leave the country to avoid the draft. Activists tell DW how they have become a political force in Russia.

At the beginning of partial mobilization, Liliya Veschevatova -a leader of feminist groups in Russia- slept little as many friends and acquaintances asked her to help men leave the country.

She lives since March in the Armenian capital, yerevan, and is currently the coordinator of the Feminist Resistance Against War (FAS).

More than 222,000 people have already been called to form part of the “partial mobilization”.

According to the Novaya Gazeta Europe website, more than 260,000 men have left the country since the announcement of the mobilization to avoid being recruited.

Feminists like Veschevatova have been helping men to leave Russia: “We gave advice, we bought tickets, we organized buses and we put people up.”

Hundreds of FAS activists in Russia and abroad are involved in this task. She herself helped 60 men to leave Russia.

Lelja Nordik, another FAS activist, also helped “dozens of people who wanted to avoid being recruited by the Russian Army or who wanted to help their relatives and they contacted me.”

“I informed them about human rights and put them in contact with activists who could organize their departure,” he said.

The first to receive help to leave the country were trans people or those who had been arrested during the protests, because they were the most threatened by the regime, says Veschevatova.

The activist is convinced that women are the foundation of today’s Russian civil society, because they come together quickly and help effectively.

Legal, psychological and material assistance

Natalia Kovylyaeva is convinced that the FAS is the most important organization that spawned the feminist movement in Russia.

According to the political scientist at the University of Tartu in Estonia, at the beginning of 2022 there were about 57 feminist groups in Russia in about 30 regions of the country.

Many of them joined the SAF on February 25, the day after the Russian invasion of Ukraine began. Today, according to Kovylyaeva, the movement is active in 100 cities in Russia and abroad.

FAS has more than 40,000 followers on the Telegram social network.

Its members organize anti-war protests, wear black in the streets, and spread anti-war memes on social media.

Furthermore, they write “Not to the war” in ruble bills and publish the Shenskaya Pravda (Women’s Truth) newspaper.

Negative attitude towards feminists in Russia

FAS activists also carry out actions such as Mariupol 5000.

Hundreds of memorial stones have been placed in the yards of houses in Russia in honor of the people killed in the eastern Ukrainian city.

“The feminists provide the refugees with legal, psychological and material assistance, help them move and take care of the activists, who are exhausted,” says Kovylyaeva.

However, the researcher admits that the attitude towards feminists in Russia has always been very negative.

Only a few realize what they represent: “It is difficult to say to what extent attitudes (towards them) have changed now, but feminists have found common ground with large sections of the population,” Kovylyaeva believes.

In his opinion, the Armed Forces have become a tangible political force against war, patriarchy, authoritarianism and militarism.

Prioritize, coordinate and report

According to Veschevatova, many activists have been forced to leave Russia for having been imprisoned following anti-war protests in February, in order to avoid jail again.

She herself was arrested twice, then moved to Yerevan in March. In exile, however, she can continue her coordination and information work.

In the past, many Russian feminists had to put up with insults from men, she says, but “when people are in anguish and running from death, it’s not entirely right to remind them of their past behavior.”

“In addition, behind each of the men we take out of Russia there are women, mothers, wives, sisters and also children,” ends.


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