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Sinead O'Connor Pleads for Pussy Riot's Release in Letter to Putin

Singer asks Russian president to think of captive musicians' childen

Sinead O'Connor
Jakubaszek/Redferns via Getty Images
September 19, 2012 10:30 AM ET

After the feminist punks of Pussy Riot were arrested and sentenced last month to two years in prison for hooliganism motivated by religious hatred, many high-profile musicians have spoken out on their behalf, from  Paul McCartney to Madonna and  Björk.

Now, Sinead O'Connor is asking for the band's release. In this exclusive open letter to Russian president Vladimir Putin, she begs him to reduce Pussy Riot's sentence to house arrest for the benefit of the musicians' children. A copy of this letter will also be hand-delivered by a representative of CBGB to the Kremlin on September 24th.

***

Dear Mr. Putin,

My name is Sinead O'Connor. I am an Irish singer of little significance other than having a huge heart full of love for all manner of people and being somewhat braver than small females are usually . . . which, of course, may be considered crazy in some quarters! An 'irregular' is what I might be called in old military terms. But I am also a singer who is, when at my best, capable of soothing incendiary situations with my singing voice. And sometimes in writing.

This comes from my genuine unconditional and non-judgmental love of all people, especially strangers . . . of which to me of course, you are one. So I am going to approach you with the same loving intent and normal speak as I would any stranger. I'm sure you're probably sick of being spoken to in 'presidential speak' and would appreciate being treated like a normal human being. I know I do. By the way, I did not attend school much and I did not learn punctuation, so please forgive me and furthermore, take it as a compliment I'm trusting you enough to be myself and not insult you with rubbish.

I am someone who had direct experience, as you may have yourself, of what I choose to call The Holy Spirit. And I don't just believe but I KNOW that all people, from kings to presidents to singers to anyone, are intrinsically good in their souls. Except those who knowingly hurt children.

Pussy Riot: Their Trial in Photos

Not those who hurt unintentionally. The scriptures tell us if we didn't KNOW something was wrong, we are not guilty. But once we understand, it is sin to repeat the action or not correct it. Especially if we are what is considered 'sane.'

I believe, though you may think it mad . . . but artists are, by necessity, 'mad.' Someone has to do everyone's madness for them . . . Secretly, all people love each other. We just aren't yet advanced enough to understand it. But we are growing toward it.

I'm sure you feel yourself, it is often strangers who are the safest people to trust and love. It is those close to us we have to watch!

It can't be an easy job being president of any country. I feel sorry for presidents. Everyone thinks they have ultimate power but throughout history, you have all been very vulnerable people and need to be considered as much as the scriptures call 'the motherless, the widowed, or the needy.'

Some people have asked I write a song on top of a 'backing track' of the female band currently in jail in Russia.

I find I'm someone who doesn't like to get involved with politics. I tell my children truthfully: I am a singer because I am not intelligent on anything else. And politics confuses and bores me.

I deal with spirit and I am an ordained priest and I use music and my heart as my priesthood . . . not wishing to disrespect the beautiful sacraments. But some rules need to be disobeyed, because God needs help in this world. And suffering is caused in president and pauper because poor God is held hostage by rules which keep us and it lonely.

This doesn't mean I'm always a good person. Often I am an awful jerk, to be honest. And I regret it. But I keep trying. Mostly I try to be very brave and to treat all people as equals. 

The songs is aggressive, very critical of you, and as I don't get involved in politics (even in my own country) and know nothing about you apart from your childhood, I do not want to hurt your heart by approaching you with anything but love.

Nor indeed do I want to be used by any government or organization to push some anti-Russian agenda, no more than I would an anti-American agenda or any other country I love, as I love Russia and America and I beg you won't prevent me from playing in Russia because I am making this plea, as I would cry if I could not play there and that's the truth. And I believe as a healer artist, I have a lot to offer some Russian people.

Russia is a place so soft in my heart I would be bereft not to be able to go there.

So instead of recording the song I thought of writing a gentler one, but there's too much to say and make it rhyme in 3 minutes. So I'm writing this open letter to you, from a mother, to a mother's son and a father.

Your mother suffered the loss of two children. That must still be a great grief in your family's and your own heart. Sometimes for men, the only way to live with loss and grief is to bury it. And when something brings it up we can run in all manner of ways.

The more sensitive we are, the more hardened we make our hearts. One can't be a poppy in a tsunami. One must become a football.

Baby darling, please forgive me addressing you in such fashion, but I see all people as sons and daughters of mothers . . . and in my middle age, I feel like I want to mother people. So I address affectionately where my human weakness doesn't mess it up.

Two small children . . . Gara and Philya . . . are now carrying the loss of their mother. Which is equal to the agony your parents suffered over the loss of their children, if you think about it.

 Thank God she had you. And thank God your own beautiful children have you.

When we were all young, we did things out of anger. The shock in ones early 20s etc, when one discovers not everyone on the news has been telling the truth. The realization the world isn't always a loving place can be upsetting and as youngsters, we can't help being angry and impulsive and try to throw off all manner of authority just to establish our own identity.

Particularly young women need to do this, Sir. (You may know if you have daughters!) We need to establish a sense of safety in this world. And as St. Augustine said, "Anger is the first step toward courage."

When I was young, and you may have been the same, oh my God, I had a temper. At school (or church for that matter) they never taught us how to communicate strong feelings healthily and one could only copy the example of elders and leaders . . . where largely war was the answer to everything! Not love. No one ever said love. Not even the spiritual leaders.

These children who have lost their mothers, Sir, they don't care about politics, or the band above mentioned, Sir, or hurting anyone. They love their mummies. And you need them to grow up loving their country. And they are going to suffer intolerable agony for the rest of their lives if they can't have their mummies back as soon as possible.

One poor child only saw her mama for the first time in six months yesterday.

Oh Sir, can you imagine as a young father, how awful it would have been for you and your child if a brash impulsive young action on your part, not well thought out and not meant to frighten anyone, resulted in your poor child losing you?

While the appeal and the issues concerned are being considered etc., Sir, please could you find it in your heart to allow the mothers of the band be allowed home on house arrest immediately so the poor innocent little children needn't suffer, Sir, and carry loss such as your mothers or yours which may ruin their innocent lives.

Maybe there's a way out of this for us to learn there's ways artists and politicians and religions could better learn to communicate and work together for the spiritual and political and general wellbeing of the people of the earth.

All are valid, Sir, from the highest king to the lowest crying child for his or her mother.

The girls ought not have frightened anyone. I wasn't there. I don't know what  happened. But I have said clearly, I think it was stupid terrifying people with balaclavas, however rainbow colored, when there have been so many frightening shootings, etc., and its terrible to scare old people or the vulnerable mentioned in scriptures.

I'm sure the girls are very sorry they hadn't thought of that in their youthful impulsiveness and genuine desire to be heard. Artists maybe need to be heard.

A wise man like you must surely see Russian art has always been your greatest export. I really believe young people don't scream unless they're not being heard any other way.

And we all bashed people up when we were young.

Verbally in the case of women.. and in your own case when you were young, you used to beat a few people up or frighten people yourself, and you probably don't feel too great about it or wouldn't want your grandchildren doing it. But we're all only human. And we do messed up stuff when we're hurt, or lonely, or we need to be heard, or feel unvalued.

Anyway, Sir . . . please let these mothers home to their children even on house arrest while sorting the case.

It's the children who matter most. And you were a child once yourself.

I'd be happy to sing this to you, Sir, and I'd cry. And I think you would too, Sir, because I know you have a heart, and your mother suffered the loss of two children.

Can you imagine your children's suffering had they lost their mother so young and early in their development?

A strong leader is a benign dictator who is brave enough even to be killed for being spiritually right, knowing the true king of Earth is God. And bidden or unbidden, He is present.

Show the world what a real man is, as you can. No president has ever been brave enough to say the word "love" or "forgive." You never hear any politician say "love." Nor even the priests half the time.

Please say it, Sir. Even just to yourself. Say "forgive." And let these children have their mums at home on house arrest immediately while the other legal issues are pending.

Don't let these children suffer what your mother suffered. Loss is loss. Loss of a mother can never be gotten back.

I know you have a heart.

Sinead.

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