Belarus: meet two women who are risking imprisonment to maintain dissent

3 weeks ago 8

“First of all, I request to cognize precisely who you are and what bash you privation to do," Sophia, a 19-year-old pupil from Minsk, told america by phone.

"Sorry, but gathering journalists present whitethorn beryllium truly unsafe”.

Being an activistic for 'Belarus Free Trade Union' - an absorption organisation that unites scholars and workers - her movements are nether the changeless supervision of the police. We met her successful a noisy buying centre adjacent stream Svislač, downtown Minsk.

Sophie gives america the lowdown connected the protocols:

First rule: ne'er usage societal networks similar Facebook oregon Instagram. The organisation claims that constabulary usually power galore people's profiles.

Second rule: you person to delete each governmental connection oregon representation you get. They archer america that constabulary simply halt radical connected the thoroughfare and cheque their cellphones.

“Today, we are surviving successful a large prison," Sophia tells Euronews. "People are arrested each day. Not for organising demonstrations - determination are nary much demonstrations successful Minsk, it’s excessively dangerous. They tin apprehension you conscionable due to the fact that of a sticker, for example, oregon due to the fact that your garment is achromatic and reddish (the colours of the opposition).”

Sophia herself has been arrested twice. During the past six months, she has spent astir 30 days successful prison.

Nowadays, her group's activities dwell fundamentally of providing enactment to different students successful jail. “We nonstop them nutrient parcels and letters - that’s each we tin do,” she says - and it is not a tiny job.

On 12 November 2020, a radical of eleven students were arrested successful Minsk. Today, they are facing charges nether Article 342 of the Criminal Code of Belarus (“organisation and mentation of actions that grossly interruption nationalist order”), which carries a situation condemnation of up to 2 years.

“Some of them are bully friends of mine," Sophia explains. They person been successful jailhouse for six months, without seeing anyone. Meeting them successful situation is astir impossible, adjacent for their relatives. They conscionable person to wait, and hope”.

Here travel the Men successful Black...

The proceedings against the students began connected 14 May successful the tribunal of Minsk’s Partizansky district. That morning, astir 1 100 students gathered successful beforehand of the courthouse, asking to beryllium allowed wrong successful bid to be the hearing. After fractional an hour, immoderate policemen came extracurricular ordering radical to get distant “as soon arsenic possible”. Meantime, immoderate vans with tinted windows arrived successful the area. Aboard, determination were a fewer twelve hooded men, wearing achromatic apparel and subject boots.

“Do you spot them? They are members of Omon," said assemblage prof Natalia Dulina, who accompanied america that day. "Now, we truly person to escape!” Omon (Special Purpose Police Detachment) is the riot constabulary of Aleksander Lukashenko, known arsenic "the sword of the regime”.

Omon's members deterioration balaclavas successful bid to support their individuality concealed and enactment without hesitation. “They conscionable instrumentality you, load you into the van and instrumentality you away,” Natalia explains. That morning, successful beforehand of the courthouse, Omon detained 14 students.

'And 3 days later, I was fired...'

There were nary circumstantial targets: they simply caught those who didn't person clip to escape.

Natalia had been teaching astatine Minsk State Linguistic University for astir 30 years. On 26 October, her students planned a large onslaught against the government. She supported them and believes that her enactment was the crushed she was called by the assemblage HR bureau 3 days aboriginal and fired.

“When I near my office, immoderate minutes later, I noticed a antheral pursuing me," she recounts. "Down successful the street, determination was the accustomed achromatic van. They brought maine to situation and jailed maine for 14 days. The assemblage medication exonerated themselves from immoderate liability, claiming that, astatine the infinitesimal of my arrest, I was not connected the world unit anymore.”

Nowadays, Natalia is simply a subordinate of the Coordination Council, the non-governmental assemblage created by statesmanlike campaigner Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya to facilitate a antiauthoritarian transportation of power.

“They tin apprehension maine again astatine immoderate moment," she told Euronews. "I’m alert of this, truthful wherefore should I hide?”

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