What’s going on in Belarus?

In August 2020 Alexander Lukashenko held another presidential election, after being in power for 26 years. Lukashenko is often called “the last dictator in Europe” and, true to form, Lukashenko declared that he had won the election with 80.1% of the vote. The result was widely disputed and in the following months hundreds of thousands of Belarusians protested for democracy and a fair result.

Lukashenko reacted to the protests with brutal force, beating and arresting thousands of peaceful protestors.

It’s now four years later…

Since those protests of August 2020 thousands of Belarusians have been arrested and imprisoned, sometimes for simple things like posting criticism of Lukashenko on social media, flying protest flags or signing letters criticising the election in 2020. Also, hundreds of thousands of Belarusians have fled the country because of the ongoing oppression and obliteration of human rights. Lukashenko also facilitated Russian’s invasion of Ukraine in 2020 by allowing Belarus to be used to cross into Ukraine, missiles to be fired from Belarus and providing equipment.

Even four years after the disputed election Lukashenko is still crushing any criticism and dissent, with arrests ongoing, political prisoners sentenced to years in prison. In February this year hundreds of families of political prisoners were arrested because someone from outside the country paid for their groceries, as a way of supporting them. Also, people who sent letters or parcels to prisoners in 2020 have been arrested now, four years later.

What are the drawings and labels about?

The drawings in the corridor were made by political prisoners who used whatever paper they could get their hands on to write letters to family and friends. In the drawings we see the prisoners’ feelings and reaction to their unjust and often brutal detainment.

Convicted prisoners are only allowed to receive letters from immediate family and two visits a year, although prison authorities often withdraw these rights. It’s not unusual for political prisoners to be kept in solitary confinement for months as prison authorities pressure anyone who dissents against Lukashenko’s rule. 6 prisoners have had no contact with anyone outside prison since February 2023.

The white and red labels in the courtyard display the names of 1,401 political prisoners who are being held. The list of names come from the Belarusian human rights organisation Viasna. The black labels commemorate the political prisoners who have died in prison.

How can I help?

If you’d like to help some political prisoners or their families then you can support the Belarusian organisation „A Country to Live In“. Since 2020 this organisation has paid more than €200K to families of political prisoners, as well as giving gifts and support to children of prisoners.

If you’d like to support Libereco’s work in arranging political support for Belarus and in raising public awareness across Europe of the situation of political prisoners then you can donate here.

If you’d like to contact us about getting involved, or to ask anything, then e-mail belarus@libereco.org