Belarus dispatch: ‘We are not going to stop until we see a free and independent Belarus’
A_Matskevich / Pixabay
Belarus dispatch: ‘We are not going to stop until we see a free and independent Belarus’

Belarusian law students enrolled at European Humanities University are filing reports with JURIST on current circumstances in Belarus under the constitutionally-disputed presidency of Alexander Lukashenka. Here, one of them comments on the August 9 two-year anniversary of the fraudulent presidential election that prompted mass demonstrations against the regime. For privacy and security reasons, we are withholding the name of the correspondent filing this report. The text has only been lightly edited to respect the author’s voice.

It has been two years since the beginning of mass peaceful protests in Belarus. It has been two years since Belarusians made their choice in the presidential elections and this choice was not in favor of Lukashenko. During this time, Lukashenka literally expelled all remaining opposition representatives from the country. The rest have already received sentences of 15 years in prison. Moreover, during this time, Lukashenka managed to become a participant in Russia’s war against Ukraine.

But I’d like to start from the beginning. From August 9, 2020. And at least try to convey the emotions that Belarusians experienced in those terrible days.

On the morning of August 9, the elections began with huge queues at polling stations even in small towns and villages. Military personnel were already standing at the entrances to Minsk, the capital, and selectively checked cars and minibuses.

The Internet was turned off at about 3 p.m. Turned off completely. Social network media and search engines did not work at all. Only calls kept people in touch. Later, the Belarusian authorities would call this a cyberattack from abroad.

Belarusians suspected that the Internet would be turned off, but many did not believe it. I can’t call the people who managed to download VPN and avoid the block lucky. No, they weren’t. These are people who in the first three days saw all the cruelty, not only with their own eyes on the streets, but also in the frames of independent media. It’s very hard psychologically when you look at how your fellow citizens are beaten and killed, when you watch and realize that you don’t even have a chance to help them.

In the period from August 9 to August 12, we used only phone calls to reach each other. The TV program was watched in the newspapers. The morning was a period when people who had the Internet were looking for missing friends and relatives in the lists of detainees. The day was a period of calm and reflection. The night was a period of struggle, the sound of grenades, gunshots and human crying.

There was no Internet in the country for almost 3 days (61 hours). The Belarusian state paid 54 million dollars a day for this. They paid to have a chance to voice only their point of view, but even that didn’t help.

Then the daily protests began on Sundays. Thousands of peaceful protests, during which Belarusians sang songs, drew posters, shouted slogans, took off their shoes to stand on benches and be visible. It was several months of beautiful protests, during which numerous detentions also continued. People were arrested for 15-30 days or fined.

And then the worst thing began. The repressions. There are now 1,262 political prisoners in Belarus. People who are sentenced to a term of 2 years or more.

The events of 2020 prompted the best people, specialists and professionals to leave the country. But this was the right thing to do. The other part of our people are in prison, and the rest will end up there sooner or later. It’s scary to live in Belarus now if you took part in rallies in 2020 or simply disagree with Lukashenka’s policy.

But Belarusians are distinguished not only by their hospitality, but also by their courage. Despite the pain and fear, despite the large number of political prisoners, we continue to defend our principles and beliefs, we continue to fight, although it is harder to do it every day.

I would like to finish this dispatch with the names of the heroes who have died for our freedom, killed by police or whose lives were taken in detention:

  1. Alexander Taraykovsky,
  2. Alexander Vikhor
  3. Alexander Budnitsky
  4. Nikita Krivtsov
  5. Artyom Parukov
  6. Gennady Shutov
  7. Konstantin Shishmakov
  8. Denis Kuznetsov
  9. Roman Bondarenko
  10. Witold Ashurok
  11. Dmitry Stakhovsky
  12. Andrey Zeltser

We are not going to stop until we see a free and independent Belarus. The best thing you can do in our support is to tell others about what we are doing, so that people do not forget that there is a country in the center of Europe where people have not given up and continue to fight.