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#westandBYyou: against repression and for fair elections in Belarus

Something unusual is going on in Belarus (Belarus). Presidential elections are on 9 August and most probably the current president, who has been in power since 1994, will win again this time. But, the population is moving and speaking out and the regime seems to be under pressure more than in other years.

Five years ago, elections in the shadow of the Maidan revolution and war in Ukraine went very peacefully for Lukashenko and he extended his term without any problems. On the contrary, the elections before that, 10 years ago, were accompanied by large-scale arrests and long prison sentences, including of presidential candidates. The big difference with this year is that the arrests started even before candidate registrations were opened. For instance, a popular blogger, who did not hide his ambitions, was jailed even before registering as a candidate. Another popular candidate was arrested while collecting signatures for his candidature and subsequently not admitted as a candidate. 

The struggle is now fronted by three women: Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, Veranika Tsapkala and Maryya Kalesnikava - always underestimated by Lukashenko and therefore extra dangerous. Three wives and associates of male candidates who were not admitted and now attract thousands of supporters at demonstrations. Even in provincial towns that Lukashenko could always rely on. Read more here: three women and staff.


Meanwhile, more than 20 campaign workers and bloggers have been detained, but Belarusians continue to demonstrate. To ensure that these remarkable developments - and the fierce repression that accompanies them - are also observed in the rest of Europe, there is now the #westandBYyou campaign (BY is the country code of Belarus).

The campaign was launched by the German-Swiss NGO Libereco for which Christie Miedema is active in the Netherlands. The campaign is also supported by several other organisations in a range of European countries, including the FMS. The hashtag allows anyone to express solidarity with political prisoners in Belarus. For example, you can send prisoners a card send.

We also enlist the support of national and European parliamentarians by having them "adopt" a political prisoner. They announce this on social media and send a letter to Lukashenko demanding the release of "their" prisoner. In 2010, Libereco already successfully carried out this action with a number of German parliamentarians, and so again they were the quickest to get there. More than five of them have now been paired, some of them were also there in 2010 - something that unfortunately also applies to some of the prisoners. But this year we are looking further ahead! Radoslaw Sikorksi, MEP and former foreign minister of Poland has now pledged, and Lower House member Lilianne Ploumen will also support this action in the run-up to the Belarusian ballot.  

For those who like to keep abreast of English-language news about the election, there is this Telegram channel. In Belarus, several operators of Telegram channels with independent information are now detained. In solidarity with him, we can make sure we are informed and speak out for their release where we can. Make yourself heard too, #westandBYyou!


By: Libereco and the FMS
Photo: Christie Miedema