“Uladzimir is giving a signal by his hunger strike.” Politically imprisoned philosopher refuses to take food for six days
Political prisoner, philosopher, and methodologist, well-known public and political figure Uladzimir Matskevich has been kept in pre-trial detention center for six months already. On the evening of February 3, he went on a hunger strike, demanding to be released under a restriction of travel order, to complete the investigation, and to set a date for the trial. Relatives of the political prisoner launched a petition in support of Uladzimir. We have asked Sviatlana Matskevich, the ex-wife of the political prisoner, methodologist, and independent expert in the field of education about his hunger strike and the meaning behind it.
Uladzimir Matskevich, having previously notified the administration of the pre-trial detention center, actually has started a hunger strike on the evening of February 3. The prisoner's relatives and friends learned about it through his lawyer.
Uladzimir refuses to eat until his demands are met. If the demands are not met by February 14, the political prisoner is ready to give up water as well.
As of the fifth day of the hunger strike, according to Uladzimir's lawyer, he “in general feels satisfactory” and is “in a stable mood”, as he has prepared for the hunger strike mentally and physically. The administration of the detention center treats him correctly and within standard norms and procedures. The fact of the hunger strike has been recorded, Uladzimir was visited by a prison doctor and a psychologist.
Sviatlana Matskevich comments on the meaning and message of Uladzimir's hunger strike:
“His decision was quite sensible and justified since he had been in jail for six months and the investigative actions were too slow. Uladzimir has not been charged yet, there are no active actions in this regard. However, his term of detention has been extended.
[…] In the realm of such a political stagnancy, . . . someone has to take a step. And, practically, Uladzimir is pushing this process together with other political prisoners.
He says that they are not just political prisoners, they are the honor, the conscience of the nation, it is our thinking, it is the force from which we can begin to push back and re-launch the resistance movement. Uladzimir's hunger strike is a signal and a call that it's time to change the situation, time to stop feeling sorry for them. We have to go into resistance. We have to start breaking the wall. In essence, Uladzimir, through his hunger strike, is giving us a reason to act and reverses the situation of political stagnancy and depression.”
Uladzimir was arrested in a criminal case on August 4, 2021, after his house was searched. He was charged with preparing/taking part in active actions grossly violating public order (Article 342 of the Criminal Code). His relatives are sure that his imprisonment was provoked by his open and clear civic position.
Uladzimir Matskevich's lawyer is under a non-disclosure order, so the relatives have no full information about the case. Philosopher's first two lawyers were disbarred.
“We all understand that we are in a situation of political crisis and the methods used by the other side are illegal.
The man is in isolation. And we should say loud and clear that a Belarusian philosopher and thinker is kept behind bars for “thought crime”. And it is not normal! It is also physically hard for him, as he is not a youngster anymore. We are all worried about his health," says Sviatlana.
A petition in support of Uladzimir Matskevich was launched on Change.org, which is addressed to the Prosecutor General's Office and the Investigative Committee.
“We believe that the requirements of Uladzimir Matskevich are realistic even in the current political and legal crisis in Belarus. Society and decision-makers should know what his alleged crime is. We don't want to lose Dr. Matskevich, a public figure, who has become a symbol of thinking Belarus. We fully support all the demands of Uladzimir Matskevich without exception”, the petition reads.