On May 21st, the Belarusian communities of New York and New Jersey, Philadelphia, Chicago, Boston, San Francisco, and San Diago joined the International Day of Solidarity with political prisoners in Belarus. Belarusian diasporas worldwide organized actions in 38 cities in 19 countries. The representatives of Ukrainian organizations joined in.

The Belarusian Americans wrote letters and cards to the political prisoners. They rallied to draw the international community’s attention to the catastrophic situation with human rights in Belarus and to demand unconditional release and freedom for anyone sentenced on politically motivated charges. 

The rallies called on the United States Congress to:

  • Demand unconditional release and freedom for all political prisoners and 
  • Demand to end tortures, persecutions, and repressions in Belarus.
  • Take measures to hold accountable those responsible for the repressions and violations of human rights in Belarus.
  • Initiate congressional hearings on the catastrophic situation with human rights in Belarus.
  • Investigate reports of torture, disappearances, and suspicious deaths of political prisoners in Belarus.

Why is May 21 the Day of Political Prisoners in Belarus?

On that day in 2021, Vitold Ashurak, a political prisoner sentenced to 5 years for participation in peaceful protests, died in the penal colony under unclear and suspicious circumstances. The authorities refused to investigate the circumstances of his death. The Human Rights Center Viasna, whose leader and 2022 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Ales Bialitaski, is a political prisoner himself, designated May 21st as a Day of Political Prisoner in Belarus.

As of today, there are more than 1500 political prisoners in Belarus. And thousands were sentenced on politically motivated criminal charges protesting the 2020 fraudulent presidential elections and the war in Ukraine. The political prisoners face inhumane conditions, torture, physical violence, psychological humiliation, and isolation. The Belarusian authorities deprive them of medical care, family visits, and attorneys’ support.

Why are there political repressions in Belarus?

After the violent crackdown of the 2020 peaceful protests against the fraudulent presidential election, self-proclaimed ruler Lukashenka transformed Belarus into a totalitarian system with a neo-Stalinist level of political repression and social control to eradicate widespread popular protests.

The Lukashenka regime organized a repressive system arresting anyone suspected of unloyalty. The regime continues persecuting workers, educators, doctors, lawyers, artists, activists, human rights defenders, journalists – people from all walks of society.

What is the political situation in Belarus?

Weakened by peaceful mass protests against the 2020 fraudulent presidential election, the self-proclaimed authoritarian ruler Lukashenka unleashed brutal repressions with Putin’s support. To keep power, the regime ceded the independence of Belarus and set the country under Russia’s political, economic, and military control. They were siding with Russia. Lukashenka turned Belarus into a launching pad for Russia’s aggression in Ukraine and became a co-aggressor. In violation of international treaties against nuclear proliferation, Putin and Lukashenka signed an agreement to use Belarus for stationing atomic weapons.

Further reading:  

Belarus must end systematic repression, release detainees, UN Human Rights Chief says

Body Of Jailed Belarusian Activist Reportedly Returned With Bandaged Head, But Family Silent

Day of solidarity with Belarus’s political prisoners