I need you like I need the air

It feels as though everything has stopped, as governments tell us only the essential things should carry on in public – food supply and delivery, health care, dog-walking… We work out for ourselves what is essential, in terms of living our lives in more or less public spaces without putting ourselves and other people at risk too much.

While actually everything hasn’t stopped at all, as governments have such a strange idea of what is actually essential. Arrests in Russian-annexed Crimea for ‘terrorism’ and related court hearings, for instance, have been deemed essential to continue. The latest three arrests were on 11 March.

Think about it: unknown people invading your home, the place we’re all supposed to retreat to now to keep ourselves and others safe, and dragging you from it to share an utterly confined space which is crowded to the locked doors and tiny broken windows with other people, with lice, with violence, disease, neglect. To join those in pre-trial prison already for months and years on the same charges, who are still having appeals for house arrest turned down.

Court hearings in Rostov grind on, now closed to relatives and journalists, how convenient for keeping this whole ludicrous evidence-free process going with less transparency or accountability than ever. One accused, Server Mustafayev, has symptoms typical of COVID-19 – a high temperature, a cough. The Russian penal system still insists he appear in court.

We’re all being told to stay at home, and we’re worrying about feeling confined, bored, cramped, lonely; cabin fever; loss of income, of freedom; social and physical distance; a little piece of our lives take away from us. All these men who have never committed or called for an act of armed violence have been taken out of their homes and forcibly confined in unbearably close proximity to hundreds of others; no income; no family and friends; no internet; no occupation; next to no sanitary and healthcare provision. Years of their lives taken away.

At a hearing last week – when they were still open to relatives – the wife of one of the accused was charged for violating regulations after she went into the court building with a piece of paper on which she’d written to him: ‘I need you like I need the air’.

We all need air to breathe, that’s clear of disinformation and fear and selfishness and injustice. We all need other people, we need love like we need the air.

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