This is an up to the minute interview with a protestor (who will remain anonymous) on the streets in Belarus. It was conducted last night (17th August) and this morning with my friend Greg Bennick and I asking questions, and my friend in Belarus answering. Amplifying this situation at the request of Belarusian protestors. Please do the same.
(Trigger warning / Content warning: sexual assault, rape, police brutality, murder)
What do YOU want the world to know about the situation there?
In short, we want the world to know that a majority of Belarusian citizens voted against Lukashenko, and we want peaceful, free and democratic elections and a change of power. But Lukashenko and his police forces and administration started a war against peaceful protesters on August 9. Before that he sent two of most popular alternative candidates to prison and a third one left the country because of danger. But even after that the wife of imprisoned candidate Tsihanowski – Svetlana Tsihanowskaja – was registered as a candidate as a mockery on people.But as a result of protest vote she won the election. Lukashenko said 80% of the vote was for him and august 9 after polling stations closed people go to the peaceful demonstration to protest and police start using flash grenades, rubber bullets and tear gas against them. There also was no internet in whole country for 3 days, having been shut down.
Now we have three basic requirements
– dismissal of Lukashenko
– freedom for all prisoners
– and investigation of police and special forces crimes against citizens and fair trial
But for a moment, most importantly, we want the world to know about the brutal police and military actions from the 9th-12th August. We want the world to know about horrible tortures, beatings, and even rapes (we have no direct proofs of rapes but only info from anonymous medics, and there was a lot a threat of rapes to women) of men and women after kidnapping. We still don’t know where our people are. There were 7000 arrested and only few thousand released. We still don’t know how many people have been killed by the police. 81 people are still missing. We have zero information about them.
What is the feeling on the street: angry or hopeful?
Our protest now has been 100% peaceful once police left the streets and do not use violence against us. These protests and demonstrations are 100% horizontal and self-organized. There no political leaders or parties. People just want fair elections. People are more hopeful now and there is more of a celebration atmosphere in the last day. Because these days are the real birth of a nation. But with a bitter taste of the fact that this is not the end and people have been killed and some are still in prison. The uniqueness of the Belarusian protest is that after police left the streets, people have been very, very peaceful. They are self-organized with mutual aid everywhere. Yesterday (August 16) there were more than 200k protesters but they are not disrupting traffic, they do not leave trash on the ground etc. They even take off their shoes when standing up on a bench to see more. It is unbelievable.
We provide each other with water because it was a very hot day today. After the first days in the evening time there was police aggression.
Then on 12 August, a group of 250 women in white stayed in the center of the city with flowers and it was game changing. Next day, thousands of women in white were on the streets of Minsk and other cities. And their action stopped the night clashes, police leave the streets and shifted the protest in peaceful ways. But we are still afraid that the police will start to shoot again. Because Lukashenko is a bloody murderer and has kidnapped and murdered his political opponents since the late 1990s and especially beginning in 2000. They use plastic and rubber bullets and flash grenades. The protestor who was killed, they shoot him from short distance while his hands were up strictly in front of his chest. That one was buried yesterday (15th August) and 10000 people were there to say goodbye. And we have video with the moment when they shot him.
So again in short: there were elections and Lukashenko arrested the two most supported candidates. But Lukashenko said he has 80% of the vote and she had 10%. But we have alot of proof that this is a lie. Protest started peacefully but police start shooting. Three days of clashes in the city in different mostly working class areas. Then women started their protest and this was game changing. After 4 days all country at peaceful demonstration and today will be a general strike. Today is Monday the 17thand the strike really begins.
Tell me more about these women?
The women were all dressed in white and stood along roads in long, long lines in all cities. The role of women in all these things has been huge. Especially in post-Soviet countries where women are treated as home keepers, etc. We have a very patriarchal society here. (Note: for additional context on the approach taken by these women, please see “The Baltic Way”)
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On the night of August 9, riot police used water cannons, stun grenades to disperse peaceful protesters all over Belarus. People’s only ‘fault’ was demand for fair vote count at the presidential election. Hundreds of Belarusians were injured and thousands were arrested in the act of unprecedented police brutality. In Minsk, a prisoner transport vehicle ran rammed a crowd of people, injuring at least two people and possibly killing another. This was a culmination of the months-long wave of detentions peaceful protesters and supporters of alternative candidates-to-be in the upcoming presidential election. Journalists, bloggers and politicians are thrown into jail under trumped up charges. Repressions are reaching regular people who are brave enough to wear a t-shirt with a protest slogan or stand in a line to buy one. We ask you to support victims of repressions and their families by sending a donation to #BY_help – a civic campaign that collects funds to help detainees and their families with their basic needs: payment of fines, access to lawyers or compensation for the loss of the only source of income, as well as much needed medical support to the injured. Since 2017, the campaign has gathered dozens of thousand US dollars, all of which have been given away to those in need. You can support the fundraising by donating here:
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