What is happening in Belarus?
Eight months ago, fraudulent elections sparked a democratic uprising in Belarus. Hundreds of thousands of ordinary citizens all across the country took to the streets to protest the regime of Alexander Lukashenko — who first seized power in 1994 — and express their support for freedom and democracy. For months, the peaceful protesters endured the brutality of the regime, which resorted to extreme violence, including the use of live ammunition, torture, and rape in prisons, to deter the democracy movement. The Lukashenko regime has done According to the Human Rights Centre “Viasna,” in 2020 more than 33,000 individuals were detained, more than 1,000 cases of torture were documented, and at least 7 people were killed since the beginning of the protests. As of May 2021, Viasna reports that there are 421 political prisoners in Belarus.
Why Does HRF Care?
HRF’s mission is to promote democracy and human rights where they are systematically denied to people. Alexander Lukashenko’s regime in Belarus is one of the most violent and brutal dictatorships in the world, where political dissent is met with extreme brutality. Free elections have not taken place in 26 years.
Yet, Lukashenko’s regime is currently at a point where nationwide public protests could usher in a new era of democracy. The international community can help sustain the pro-democracy movement in Belarus by sending financial support, as well as sharing information and standing in solidarity with protesters.
What will the funds be used for?
Since its inception, the Belarus Solidarity Fund has provided a lifeline to democracy movements in Belarus. HRF provides modest financial assistance to those Belarusians who have been fired from their jobs, injured, arbitrarily detained, or who face steep fines because of their support for freedom and democracy in Belarus. The fund also provides equipment and assistance to independent journalists who, at great personal risk, continue to cover events in Belarus even in the face of government repression.
Recipients are carefully vetted by HRF in collaboration with Belarusian nonprofits, civil society organizations, and international human rights experts.
HRF has also partnered with leaders of the Belarusian diaspora to provide targeted financial aid to striking workers at specific factories, including GrodnoAzot, Belaruskali, Belaz, and Naftan. The idea is to provide support to enough striking workers to effectively shut down operations at each factory, adding more pressure to Lukashenko’s weakening regime.
What else has HRF done for Belarus?
HRF has closely monitored the situation in Belarus since May when protests against the regime first started, and worked to support the pro-democracy movement on-the-ground, as well as raise international awareness for the situation in Belarus.
– On September 25, 2020, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya spoke at HRF’s Oslo Freedom Forum about the pro-democracy movement in Belarus
– In June, HRF published an op-ed entitled “Endgame for Belarus Leader Alexander Lukashenko?”
– In August 2020, HRF convinced American rappers Tyga and SAINt JHN to cancel their performances at a concert organized by Lukashenko’s regime
– HRF released a podcast interview with Andrei Sannikov, Belarusian democracy activist and former presidential candidate, as part of our “Dissidents and Dictators” series
– During the first wave of protests in August 2020, HRF sent letters to 25 members of the Belarusian state security apparatus who had committed crimes against humanity. Several of the individuals identified by HRF were later sanctioned by the U.S. Department of the Treasury.
– HRF hosted a panel discussion on “The Telegram Revolution in Belarus,” featuring Belarusian journalists and members of the opposition movement
– In January 2021, HRF joined a campaign to pressure the International Ice Hockey Federation to move the Ice Hockey World Championship away from Belarus, whose government was attempting to use this event to distract from its human rights abuses.
– HRF recorded a podcast with the Belarus Sports Solidarity Foundation to discuss how Belarusian athletes are defending democracy.
– On April 22, HRF hosted a discussion on Clubhouse with the leader of democratic Belarus, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya; Magnitsky Act architect, Bill Browder; former U.S. ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul; and HRF chairman, Garry Kasparov, about the future of the democratic movement in Belarus and how the international community can help end the brutality and repression of Lukashenko’s authoritarian regime.
What else can I do to support Belarus?
Spread the word
To increase visibility for this cause, please share this campaign on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media platforms. The more people learn about what is happening in Belarus, the more people can help sustain the democratic movement.
Write letters to political prisoners in Belarus or take godparenthood over one of them. Lobby your local representatives to speak out in support of democracy in Belarus and stand with the Belarusian people. International pressure and attention are some of the best ways to prevent human rights abuses in Belarus. If we ignore Belarus today, Lukashenko will feel free to continue his brutal repressions against his own people.
For daily news and analysis from Belarus, Radio Free Europe, Belsat TV, and Nexta TV have English language services with the latest updates and information. You can also follow Belarusian journalists like Franak Viacorka (@franakviacorka) and Hanna Liubakova (@hannaliubakova), or Belarusian leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya (@tsihanouskaya) on Twitter and other social media.