In Amsterdam there was a demonstration against the Belarusian dictator Lukashenko and his harsh repression of political opponents. Dozens of Belarusians gathered on Dam Square for the protest. Worldwide, Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya responds to the call for international protests, exactly one year after the arrest of her husband.
The demonstrators are almost all wearing white and red, referring to an ancient flag of Belarus embraced by the opposition as a symbol of protest. In addition to choirs such as Zjive Belarusian (live Belarus), traditional Belarusian folk songs were sung.
“ This day actually has two meanings,” explains Ilya Shcharbitski. He is one of the organizers of the Damprotest. “Sergey Tikhanovsky, the man of Tikhanovskaya, has been imprison for one year without sight of a fair trial. In addition, we are protesting for all the other hundreds of political prisoners in Belarus.” By a megaphone, their names were listed.
The Belarusian diaspora has been demonstrating against the Lukashenko regime for months, but international attention to the country has been weakening in recent times. This has been changed by the arrest of journalist Roman Protasevich and his girlfriend after a scheduled flight between two EU countries was forced to land in Belarus.
For Shcharbitsky, it is important that European governments now “stand up very hard” against Lukashenko, “to show that such a thing must never happen again. You must be able to feel safe in Europe.” The Belarusian, who moved to the Netherlands on the age of 13, already knew that he could no longer safely go to his homeland, but because of the arrest of Protasevich, he now feels threatened in the EU as well.
That‘s what more Belarusian Dutch say. For example, Dutch-Belarusian David van Bragt (18) fears that demonstrating in the Netherlands may have consequences for family in Belarus. That does not stop him from going out into the streets: ‘I am demonstrating here because people in Belarus can no longer do that. ‘
Also (small) protests in Belarus
In the months following last year’s fraudulent presidential elections, which Lukashenko won for the seventh time, hundreds of thousands of Belarusians went to the streets for weeks. Through harsh intervention and the arrest of tens of thousands of demonstrators, such mass demonstrations no longer occur in the country.
Despite this, Belarusians try to make their counter-sound through subtle protest actions. For example, white-red flags are hung on apartment buildings or horns motorists drive past government buildings. By the way, Belarusians are also arrested for such crimes: recently, according to her own words, a woman was fined 750 euros for wearing white-red socks.
In suburbs of Minsk, Belarusians go into the streets in small groups:
To replace mass meetings in Minsk, the Belarusian opposition hopes to continue to increase pressure on Lukashenko with protests in dozens of world cities. In particular, Berlin, Kiev and Warsaw, large crowds of people met. There are also solidarity actions in Paris, London, Perth and Seoul. Later today, there are actions in Canada and the United States.
Lukashenko has been in the Russian seaside town of Sochi since yesterday, where he talks with Russian President Putin. Yesterday they spoke of ‘selective outrage from the West’ on the Protasevich issue of ‘sowing unrest in Belarus. ‘ Today, Putin has pledged his Belarusian neighbor a new loan of half a billion dollars, reports Interfax. That amount is on top of a loan of 1.5 billion promised last year.
According to demonstrator David van Bragt, it is absolutely not pointless to demonstrate in a far abroad. “It is good for family in Belarus to see us demonstrating here,” he says. “And everything comes to an end, every dictator goes away once.”