With a heavy weight on his shoulders, Evan Gershkovich is standing tall

By | April 20, 2023

Jason Rezaian writes:

As Evan Gershkovich appeared in a Moscow courtroom, everything about the stage-managed proceedings was designed to elicit a specific response. He was placed in a glass cage where cameras flashed around him. Local Russian journalists covering the appearance yelled words of encouragement to him. Courtroom security guards admonished them for doing so. And the judge presiding over Gershkovich’s case rejected his appeal to be released on bail.

In short, everyone played their part. Everyone, that is, except Gershkovich.

Instead of cowering from the glare, instead of looking confused, or giving his captors the satisfaction of appearing scared, trapped or even frustrated, Gershkovich stood there with his head held high. He had made the correct assessment early on in his ordeal that he has nothing to hide and nothing to be ashamed of.

I remember a similar sense coming over me during my own trial in Iran.

Make no mistake, one is certainly beset by a sense of fear when the full weight of an authoritarian apparatus is bearing down upon you. But there is also a growing sense of defiance, a knowledge that you are being deeply wronged, the latest victim of a rigged system.

Gershkovich has likely gone through a series of stages in the first weeks of his captivity.

At first, you believe it’s all a big mistake. Someone will surely come to your defense and straighten things out. But authoritarian states don’t make such mistakes. The enormity of the situation starts to dawn on you.

Then there are the threats. Gershkovich was surely sweated down by security service gorillas during his interrogations. It’s harrowing to hear that you might be tortured in gruesome ways, or even killed.

But it has to have also dawned on Gershkovich that he is of no use to the Russians dead. He knows he is a hostage, so he knows he will likely get out. Eventually. As the days dragged on, what began to consume me was the fear of growing old in captivity. Gershkovich is clearly not there yet. And that’s a very good thing. [Continue reading…]