Hunger strikes and suicide attempts by political prisoners in Belarus: German Members of Parliament show their solidarity
Political prisoners in Belarus protest against inhuman conditions in prison by starting hunger strikes. Two of the detainees have attempted to take their own lives in the past weeks.
There are nearly 300 political prisoners in Belarusian prisons, while the number is constantly increasing. The life of a political prisoner behind bars is determined by inhumane conditions: overcrowded cells, poor sanitary conditions, violence by prison guards and even systematic torture. Political news from outside and a bleak outlook for the future lead to frustration and despair. To demonstrate the cruelty of their situation, some prisoners have to rely on the only form of protest that they are left with: damaging their own bodies.
Igor Bancer has been on hunger strike since March 3 to protest his arbitrary imprisonment. The musician is an important figure in the Eastern European punk scene and was a strong supporter of the democracy movement in Belarus. He was very active in building bridges between European subcultures. He played concerts all over Europe and invited bands from Germany, Italy and other parts of Europe to play in Belarus. Harassed by the police for his longstanding political activism, he was arrested in October 2020 due to a provocative dance he performed and was accused of hooliganism. We do not have any detailed information on Igor Bancer’s current health.
Rasmus Andresen, member of the European Parliament for the Alliance90 / The Greens, has taken over the godparenthood for Igor Bancer this week and stated: “I demand the release of the musician and activist Igor Bancer from political imprisonment in Belarus. He has been on hunger strike since March 3. Igor had initially announced a dry hunger strike, which means to live without any food or water. However, such a dry hunger strike can only be sustained for a few days. He would proceed until the end, he announced. 14 days after the beginning of Igor’s hunger strike, we are very worried whether he is going to survive. The Belarusian authorities must immediately inform his family and the public about his state of health. He must not be allowed to die in prison. He is unjustly imprisoned because he has been working for democracy and human rights. Free Igor Bancer.”
Dzmitry Furmanau was a member of the campaign team of presidential candidate Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya. He was arrested in May 2020 accused of organising actions that grossly disturb public order. During a court hearing on March 11, he announced that he would go on hunger strike to protest against his prison conditions. Dzmitry Furmanau’s girlfriend and mother, who live in exile, had also started a hunger strike to stand in solidarity with him. Today it was announced that Dzmitry Furmanau has ended his hunger strike.
Erik Marquardt, member of the European Parliament for the Alliance 90 / The Greens, has taken over the godparenthood for Dzmitry Furmanau in July 2020. On the occasion of Dzmitry’s hunger strike he stated: “It is appalling that political prisoners in the middle of Europe have no other choice than to start a hunger strike. Dzmitry Furmanau has been in prison for more than 9 months. His supposed crime is collecting signatures for the opposition in Belarus. The conditions the prisoners are living in are inhumane. The targeted harassment tends to intimidate the democratic opposition.”
The well-known blogger Ihar Losik has been imprisoned since June 2020. In December and January, he began a hunger strike that lasted six weeks. When new charges were made against him on March 11, he slit his wrists and went on another dry hunger strike, which he ended on March 15.
Manuel Sarrazin, member of the Bundestag and spokesperson for Eastern European policy for the Alliance 90 / The Greens, took over Ihar Losik’s godparenthood in July 2020 and stated: “Ihar Losik and all polticial prisoners are innocent and must be released immediately. Ihar has been paying a high price for his courageous engagement for democracy and human rights in Belarus for over eight months. I stand in solidarity with the entire democracy movement in Belarus and show my full support to them. As European Union we have to increase the pressure on dictator Lukashenka and adopt further sanctions against state-owned enterprises.”
The blogger Siarhei Piatrukhin from Brest ran two Youtube channels on which he mainly reported about topics such as corruption or illegal police activities. He has been in custody since June 2020, accused of organising actions that grossly disturb public order. On February 27, he tried to cut his wrists to protest his transfer to a cell with poor sanitary conditions. Since then he has been detained in a punishment cell with even worse sanitary conditions.
Omid Nouripour, member of the Bundestag and spokesperson for foreign policy of the Alliance 90 / The Greens, took over the godparenthood for Siarhei Piatrukhin in September 2020 and stated: “Siarhei Piatrukhin crippled himself by cutting his veins in Mogilev prison in February. He had protested against the poor conditions in his cell. Due to his suicide attempt he was transferred to a detentiom room, the so-called “karzer”, a narrow space where you can only stand or sit, with bare concrete walls and ceilings, cold and damp. The behaviour of the Belarusian regime is a gross violation of the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners and other human rights standards. The charges against Siarhei Piatrukhin and his colleague are politically motivated. The trial does not correspond to the rule of law standards to which the state of Belarus has committed itself. I demand the immediate release of Siarhei Piatrukhin and all other 290 political prisoners. The Lukashenka regime must resign. There is no future and no legitimacy for its repressive authority over the people of Belarus.”