The Students For Liberty community is deeply disturbed by the human rights abuses which have unfolded in the aftermath of the Presidential elections in Belarus.
Our community empathizes with all activists who were arrested, assaulted, and tortured during the peaceful rallies for freedom. It was reported that nearly 7,000 activists and civilians were detained by Belarusian law enforcement units. Our community expresses our condolences to the families of activists who have passed away due to the cruel actions of the Belarusian government.
We are saddened to hear stories of abuse from our leaders and fellow activists who have suffered greatly from the authoritarian regime’s inhumane actions.
For instance, Students For Liberty’s Local Coordinator for Eastern Europe and civil rights activist Piotr Markielau was arrested days before the election when he came to support the family of a political prisoner who were all on a hunger strike. Though Piotr was arrested before election night, he was yet again tortured and humiliated.
“The first five days have been the worst. I spent two days in solitary, and was later transferred to Jodino, which feels like a luxury resort compared to Minsk. But it can’t be matched to what the activists are experiencing now [after the elections] ” Piotr claims.
“I spent two days at the Center for Isolation of Offenders. I slept on the bench, and some people slept on the floor. I was in two cells with political prisoners, who were mostly arrested at the State Security Committee. I was bitten by lice. I managed to remove one, but I hope they didn’t lay any eggs. When I was placed at the punishment isolator, the water supply in my cell was cut both in the toilet and the sink. There were bottles of water which were refilled only on request.”
The story of Eugeniy, another civil rights activist from Minsk, who was detained and severely assaulted by special unit forces on the second day of the post-election protests, is not any less heartbreaking.
Eugeniy was surrounded by 300 civilians when he was assaulted by special force units in broad daylight in Minsk.
“I got beaten up and my hands were tied behind my back. After that, three special unit guys in uniform took me aside and told me: ‘Now we will put a hand grenade in your underpants and pull the pin out — you’ll be blown up to pieces and we will report your death as one that came from an unknown explosive device.’ They stuffed a hand grenade into my underwear, then ran away.
They came back, beat me again, and brought me back to the street. My teeth chipped because I had to carry my backpack in my mouth. If the backpack fell down, I would get beaten, then I would need to pick it up and would then get beaten up even more.They beat you up all the time, non-stop.”
When Eugeniy was placed in the police van, special force soldiers beat him on the head with a metal rod baton, and broke his skull.
“There are rubber batons and batons with a metal rod inside. Before, they beat us with the rubber ones. Once again: there was no option for any resistance. You just can’t resist. You do what they tell you to do. You keep silent. You don’t try to claim your rights. (…)
My head was bleeding, and my whole body was black and blue. I could not move and was constantly losing consciousness. I felt sick and saliva was coming out of my mouth, which they diagnosed as: ‘Oh, and this one is also on drugs.’ At some point, I started to convulse.”
Stories like Eugeniy’s can be heard from nearly anyone who was arrested during the protests. The special forces were beating men until they became unconscious. They raped women, assaulted the elderly, broke into cars, and invaded private property, leaving no chance for anyone to escape.
The following movement which grew in Belarus as a response to the election results symbolizes the Belarusian people’s cry for freedom, justice, and democracy. 220,000 people were reported to have partaken in peaceful rallies on the streets of Minsk, as well as many other cities and villages across the country.
We are hopeful that the #FreeBelarus movement will bring the Belarusian people the freedom that they’ve been fighting for.
Renowned economist and Nobel Prize winner Friedrich von Hayek once said, “If we wish to preserve a free society, it is essential that we recognize that the desirability of a particular object is not sufficient justification for the use of coercion.”
There is no place for violence, tourture, or brutal assaults, and unfortunately this continues to be inflicted by authoritarian government forces on their own people. Authoritarianism, injustice, coercion, and violent misconduct must be condemned by all those who believe in the values of peace, love, and liberty.
The Students For Liberty community calls to condemn the unlawful use of force made towards the peaceful protesters, civil rights activists, civilians, and bystanders during the #FreeBelarus protests as well as the wider freedom movement.
If you’d like to help us support this cause, please share this post with your family and friends using the hashtag #FreeBelarus.
Sincerely & For Liberty,
Your friends at Students For Liberty