Image Credit: http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/60752
Widespread protest has been met with brutal violence, intense hostility and accounts of torture in the Belarusian capital Minsk and further afield following the Belarus election announcement on Sunday 9th August.
On Sunday, independent candidate Alexander Lukashenko beat his main opponent Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya and was re-elected to a sixth term of office. His opponents are calling the election rigged, with Tsikhanouskaya declaring herself the true winner. In her address, Tsikhanouskaya announced her departure from the country as she fled to Lithuania for fear of her children’s safety during the election aftermath.
Protests against Lukashenko’s government began ahead of the election results, and by Sunday were already being met with extreme violence by the Belarusian authorities. Prior to the election results, activists including Vitalia Navumik, whose husband Uladzimar Navumik was arrested in May, said she was threatened with the removal of her children after her home was searched. There are also reports from female activists of threats of sexual violence.
As peaceful protestors began their march following the results, they were met with severe aggression from authorities, who used rubber bullets and fire in order to stop the crowds. One video shows a police van running over a protestor at full speed. Protests started to escalate in violence when met with this brutal opposition.
In the 5 days since the election over 200 protestors have been wounded and nearly 7000 detained. At least 2 people have died.
Still, the protests are mostly peaceful. On Tuesday night thousands of women wearing white took to the streets, condemning the violence and calling for an end to police brutality. They also call for the detained prisoners to be freed. The women in Minsk formed “solidarity chains”, asking for a peaceful resolution.
Workers are also reported to be on strike across the country.
Called ‘Europe’s last dictator,’ the incumbent candidate won 80.23% of the vote according to election officials, although there are countless allegations that the election was rigged. None of Lukashenko’s previous wins have been found fair by observers. Most recently, his government has been plagued by economic troubles and a deeply criticised handling of the Coronavirus pandemic. His opponents also criticise his tendency to resort to state-sanctioned violence and military intervention, exacerbated recently given the obvious decline in his popularity.
After many of the political opposition, including her husband, were arrested, Tsikhanouskaya appeared to be the main opponent. She also claims accounts of harassment in the run-up to the election. Alongside Vitalia Navumik and activist Maria Kolesnikova, she formed the “female trio,” who strongly advocated for peaceful change and inclusivity. Lukashenko reportedly dismissed her bid, saying the Belarusian constitution is “not for women.”
Following the results, the Belarusian government has met quick international criticism from much of the Western world. President Vladimir V. Putin however, congratulated Lukashenko on his victory.
Amnesty International is calling for the release of prisoners and the intervention of international authorities to help stop the human rights violations that are being witnessed across the country. They also note the violence against journalists and the government’s attempts to suppress information. The violence against protestors is acknowledged as unprovoked.
In yesterday’s report, Amnesty’s local groups gave shocking new testimony from detainees inside the detention centres. They are said to have been threatened with rape, stripped, and beaten. Reports say those arrested are kept inside crowded cells without food and are often forced to lie face down on the floor for hours at a time.
Lukashenko’s opposition have maintained that they will continue to fight this human rights violation as the country goes into the sixth day of protests.
(Image credit: Redline)