Femen’s activists say they are being harassed by SBU, but will not give up

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June 30, 2010, 6:01 p.m. | Op-ed — by Anna Hutsol
Femen always thought we’d become the porn stars of Ukraine’s politics, but never could we have guessed that the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) would start to chase us, and that pseudo- law enforcers would threaten us with physical violence. That’s because we live, are living and will continue to live in a democratic society. At 1 a.m. on the eve of an event called “Democratic bitches against the SBU pressure on civic organizations and media” on June 23, two unknown people claiming to be law enforcement officers forced their way into my apartment. They threatened to “break the legs” and “tear off the heads” of anyone who participated in the event. They knew the addresses of all the Femen movement’s main activists.

They held me for two hours and forced me to call our press secretary to make corrections to the press release for the event. In the course of the conversation they kept changing their demands. In the end they demanded that we take out the paragraph from the press statement with a reference to “preventative talks” of SBU workers with the organization’s activists.

The government’s feverish response to Femen’s actions has reached its peakand now the SBU summons activists to “preventative chats” – a practice that was common in the era of Leonid Kuchma, and whose roots go even deeper into the Soviet system of total control over citizens.

Activists of Ukrainian women‘s movement Femen bear the acronym of the Ukrainian Secret Services (SBU), reading “SBU-bitches,“ on their underwear as they block the entrance to the SBU building during a protest in Kyiv on June 23 against lawlessness in the country. (Yaroslav Debelyi)

Just like then, the SBU has turned into an instrument of pressure, instead of an instrument to defend state interests.

To be honest, this is something that should have been expected ever since power was taken by the clan of brutal ageing machos, who hold their women behind closed doors, assigning them the role of servants (or secretaries, or deputies). Bare women’s breasts scare them more than the bandits: It seems they know what to do with the bandits, but not bare breasts.

The language of force, the only one they can understand, is not acceptable to us. That’s why after the midnight threats we decided to act democratically and go public about all instances of pressure.

It was scary. But would any woman not get scared if a strong man raised his hand against her? But staying silent would be like accepting defeat in this case, and a total collapse of democracy in Ukraine.

On June 23 we came out to the SBU building, and before the watchful eyes of many photo and television journalists we addressed the Ukrainian community as well as Viktor Yanukovych as the guarantor of the Constitution to protect us from pressure and threats.

Femen in front of the SBU on June 23

The situation spiraled downward the next day as we found an ad on the Internet, saying: “A respectable organization is collecting information about the girls who took part in Femen’s actions for money.” In the café when we’re usually based and where we know almost all visitors, we spot strange people that look like they’re shadowing us.

There is a major question about the professionalism of today’s SBU chief and his institution after the daily newspaper Segodnya wrote on June 19, citing sources close to Khoroshkovsky, that the bullying of Femen is the work of former SBU managers who are currently in opposition.

In other words, if one of Femen activists is injured or killed today, tomorrow they will say that it’s a “provocation of the opposition.”

Being an independent force, Femen has managed in the last two years to raise the issues of sex tourism and prostitution to the national level. But also with our enthusiasm, however Soviet this may sound, we revived public social activity in Ukraine, which had been discredited by paid-for demonstrations that are still used as an instrument in power struggles. We shall not allow anyone to discredit us any further.

We’re proud of our activists who were not afraid to come to the SBU after the threats, and who decided to go to the end. They have balls bigger than all our government members together. They have matured enough to become a true political force that can resist the current or any other authorities that fail to act in accordance with the laws of democracy.

Anna Hutsol is the leader of Femen, a non-profit organization that promotes women’s issues. She can be reached at

You can watch a chat with one of Femen's activists on TVi with Roman Skrypin:

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