Viasna marks 25 years
25 years ago today, tens of thousands protested peacefully against President Aliaksandr Lukashenka's maiden plans to usurp power. The authorities responded with violence, for the first time in the history of modern Belarus, but not for the last. It was on this very day, April 26, that a group of activists led by Ales Bialiatski decided to launch an initiative which is now known as Viasna.
25 years after, Viasna's leader shares his thoughts on what these years brought, both to Viasna and the country, in general.
"Year after year, we can remember these 25 years, and every year there was something that affected our activities, and it was our work that, in turn, changed these years. If we had been told at the beginning that we would still continue our activities, we would not have believed it: “No way abuse of human rights can continue for so long.”
If we recall the most significant events, they are primarily related to elections. These are the 2001 elections, which led to the liquidation of Viasna in 2003, and then the 2006 elections, as a result of which we were facing criminal charges under Article 193-1 of the Criminal Code for acting on behalf of an unregistered organization.
Almost 20 activists of the Young Front, including Aleh Korban, Dzmitry Dashkevich and others, were convicted under this article.
The 2010 elections, which ended with searches and a series of arrests, including mine, was also memorable. But Viasna continued to work, and it still does.
The summer of 2020 somehow brought us back to the past times of crisis. During these 25 years, the authorities have not noticed that a new generation of Belarusians has grown up, to whom human rights are not mere words.
Now the regime is built on violence and lies. Just listen to the news of the last days, listen to the “serious” stories about 150 SUVs with machine guns, which were expected to come from Lithuania to overthrow the president, about the tragic and comic incident in a Žodzina sauna. It’s all done in order to maintain the level of fear in society.
As human rights activists, we will never agree that our people are deprived of the most basic rights guaranteed by the Constitution.
The repressions that have befallen the society equally affect human rights activists. Four of our fellow activists are now in prison. We are working to secure the release of Marfa Rabkova, Andrei Chapiuk, Leanid Sudalenka and Tatsiana Lasitsa.
There are threats of reprisals against us in the official media. But that doesn’t stop us. They should give up the idea of silencing us.
Society is now in an acute phase of crisis, and the rabid, de-facto Stalinist reaction reigns supreme. We are entering a new quarter of our existence with huge challenges.
But society is completely different now. It gives us steady optimism and confidence that everything we have done and are doing is not in vain."
chairman of the Human Rights Center "Viasna"