Ales Bialiatski Awarded Nobel Peace Prize. His Wife Receives It
On December 10, the International Human Rights Day, in Oslo, the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony took place. This year, three nominees received the prestigious award at once: the head of Viasna Ales Bialiatski, the Ukrainian Center for Civil Liberties and the Russian Memorial human rights group. The human rights defender Ales Bialiatski could not personally receive the award — he has been behind bars under criminal charges for 17 months. That is why his wife Natallia Pinchuk received the award on behalf of Ales Bialiatski.
On October 7, 2022, the Norwegian Nobel Committee announced that the chairman of the Human Rights Center Viasna became a Nobel Peace Prize laureate. Together with Ales Bialiatski, the Ukrainian Center for Civil Liberties and the Russian Memorial human rights group received the award. This year, Ales Bialiatski was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for the sixth time.
The 2022 Nobel Peace Prize is awarded to human rights advocate Ales Bialiatski from Belarus, the Russian human rights organization Memorial and the Ukrainian human rights organization Center for Civil Liberties.
The Peace Prize, according to Alfred Nobel’s will, is awarded “to the person who has done the most or best to advance fellowship among nations, the abolition or reduction of standing armies, and the establishment and promotion of peace congresses”.
Ales is the third person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize while in prison. For years of his human rights activities, Ales was put behind bars. He has been behind bars since July 14, 2021— for 17 months already. He and his colleagues are accused of ‘smuggling by an organized group’ in 2016-2020, and ‘funding of active group actions that grossly violated public order’ during the mass protests after the presidential elections in 2020.
Therefore, today, on December 10, his wife Natallia Pinchuk received the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo on behalf of the Viasna chairman. On this day, for the first time in the history of the Nobel Prize, the Nobel speech was delivered in Belarusian.
“Peace. May peace remain in my soul”, — Natallia Pinchuk conveyed the words of Ales Bialiatski
“Your Royal Graces, Your Royal Highnesses, dear members of the Nobel Committee, dear ladies and gentlemen.
It is with great excitement that I have the honor to speak here, at the honoring of the 2022 Peace Prize laureates. My husband Ales Bialiatski is among them.
Unfortunately, he cannot accept his award in person. He is behind bars in Belarus. That is why I am standing here.
I would like to express my gratitude:
to the Norwegian Nobel Committee, whose decision has strengthened Ales in his willingness to stand in his truth and gives hope to all Belarusians that they can count on democratic solidarity in the struggle for their rights.
Thanks to everyone who supported Ales, his friends and his cause all these years, and supports now.
I sincerely congratulate the Center for Civil Liberties and the Memorial International Society on the well-deserved award. Ales and all of us are aware of how important and risky it is to carry out the mission of human rights defenders, especially in the tragic time of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.
Not only Ales is in prison — thousands of Belarusians, tens of thousands of repressed people, imprisoned for their civil position are there. Hundreds of thousands are forced to flee the country just because they wanted to live in a democratic state. In Belarus, unfortunately, the war of the authorities against their own people, language, history, and democratic values has been going on for years. I speak about this here with pain and apprehension, because today’s political and military events threaten Belarus with the loss of its statehood and independence.
Unfortunately, the government communicates with the society only with the help of force — grenades, batons, stun guns, endless arrests and torture. There is no talk of national compromise or dialogue. They persecute girls and boys, women and men, minors and the elderly. The inhuman face of the system reigns in the Belarusian prisons, especially for those who dreamed of being free people!
In this situation, it is no coincidence that the authorities arrested Ales and his associates from the Human Rights Center Viasna for their democratic beliefs and human rights activities: Marfa Rabkova, Valiantsin Stefanovich, Uladzimir Labkovich, Leanid Sudalenka, Andrei Chapiuk and other human rights defenders are in prison. Others are still under investigation and prosecutor’s charges, or had to flee abroad. But “none can conquer, stay or halt” the Human Rights Center Viasna-96, created more than twenty-five years ago by Ales and his like-minded people!
Ales could not hand over the text of his speech, he managed to tell me literally a couple of words. Therefore, I will share his thoughts with you — both the latest ones and those recorded earlier. These are fragments of his earlier statements, works, and reflections. Here are his thoughts about the past and future of Belarus, about human rights, about the destinies of peace and freedom.
I am passing the floor to Ales.
“It so happens that the people who value freedom the most are often deprived of it. I remember my friends — human rights defenders from Cuba, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, I remember my spiritual sister Nasrin Sotoudeh from Iran. I admire Cardinal Joseph Zen from Hong Kong. Now in Belarus, thousands of people are behind bars for political reasons, and they are all my brothers and sisters. Nothing can stop people’s thirst for freedom. The whole of Belarus is here in prison now. Journalists, political scientists, trade union leaders, and many of them are my acquaintances and friends... The courts are working like a conveyor belt, the convicts are transported to the colonies, and new waves of political prisoners take their place...
This award belongs to all my friends, human rights defenders, all social activists, tens of thousands of Belarusians who were beaten, tortured, arrested, and imprisoned. This award is a reward for millions of Belarusian citizens who stood up for their civil rights. It emphasizes the dramatic situation of human rights in the country.
I recently had a short dialogue.
“When will you be free?” they asked me.
“I’m free at heart anyway,” I answered.
My free spirit soars over the prison and over the maple leaf contours of Belarus.
I look inside myself, and it seems that my ideals have not changed, have not lost their value, have not faded. They are always with me and I protect them as best I can. They are like cast gold, and they do not rust.
We want to make our society more harmonious, fair and responsive. To achieve an independent, democratic Belarus. We want her to be cozy and attractive to live in. This idea is noble, consistent with the world’s general ideas of civilization. We don’t dream of something extraordinary, we just want to “be called people”, as our classic Yanka Kupala said. It implies respect for ourselves and others, human rights, a democratic way of life, the Belarusian language and our history.
I believe because I know that the night will pass and the morning will come. I know that it is hope and dream that tirelessly push us forward.
Martin Luther King paid with his life for his dream, he was shot. My fee for my dream is lower, but I still have to pay for it. I don’t regret it a bit. Because my dream is worth it. My ideals are consistent with the ideals of my older friends and spiritual teachers, the Czech Vaclav Havel and the Belarusian Vasil Bykau. Both of them went through great life trials, both did a lot for their peoples and culture, both fought for democracy and human rights until the last minutes of their lives.
It is impossible for a good crop to grow immediately on an empty field. The field must be fertilized well, the stones must be removed... And what the communist government left in Belarus after the 70 years of their rule can be called scorched earth... There were times in the late 1980s when we literally all knew each other by sight... But at the beginning of the 1990s, thousands and tens of thousands of people appeared...
On August 9, 2020, the presidential elections were held in Belarus. The mass falsifications made people take to the streets. The Good and Evil met in a fight. The Evil was well armed. And on the part of the Good there were only unheard-of peaceful mass protests gathering hundreds of thousands of people.
The authorities fully launched the repressive mechanism of torture and murder having killed Raman Bandarenka, Vitold Ashurak, and many others.
This is the highest level of repression unprecedented in its brutality. People are going through unimaginable torture and suffering.
The cells and prisons look more like the Soviet public toilets, in which people are kept for months and years. I am absolutely against the fact that women are in prison. Imagine what they go through in the prisons of Belarus, in this branch of hell on earth!
Lukashenka’s statements confirm that the performers were given carte blanche to stop people through fear. But citizens of Belarus demand justice. They demand that those who committed mass crimes be punished. They demand free elections. Belarus and Belarusian society will never be the same again, as when they were completely bound hand and foot. People have woken up...
Now the permanent struggle between the Good and Evil has unfolded almost in its purest form in the entire region. The icy cold from the East collided with the warmth of the European Renaissance.
It is not enough to be educated and democratic, it is not enough to be humane and merciful. You need to be able to defend your gainings and your Motherland. It is not for nothing that in the Middle Ages the concept of the Fatherland was identical to the concept of freedom.
I know exactly what kind of Ukraine would satisfy Russia and Putin — a non-independent dictatorship. Such as today’s Belarus, where the voice of the oppressed people is not heard.
The Russian military bases, huge economic dependence, cultural and linguistic Russification — this is the answer to the question of whose part Lukashenka is on. The authorities of Belarus are independent only to the extent that Putin allows them. And that is why it is necessary to fight against the “international of dictatorships”.
I am a human rights defender and therefore a supporter of non-violent resistance. I am not an aggressive person by nature, I always try to behave that way. However, I also understand well that the good and the truth must be able to defend themselves. I keep peace in my soul as best I can, nurture it like a delicate flower, drive away anger. I pray that reality will not force me to dig up a long-buried ax and defend the truth with an ax in hand. Peace. May peace remain in my soul.
And on December 10, I want to repeat to everyone: “Have no fear!” This is what Pope John Paul II said in the 1980s when he came to the communist Poland. He didn’t say anything else then, but that was enough. I believe because I know that spring always comes after winter.”
I have quoted Ales Bialiatski. And I will end my speech with shouts from his soul: Freedom to the Belarusian people! Freedom to Viasna! LONG LIVE BELARUS!"
How to congratulate Ales Bialiatski on receiving the Nobel Peace Prize?
The ways to congratulate and support Ales are very limited by the Belarusian authorities. However, we urge you to continue expressing your solidarity both with Ales Bialiatski and with the other political prisoners who are being persecuted for their peaceful activities, in the following ways:
- by a letter, postcard or telegram (in Belarus, you can call 166 from your home phone)
- by a money transfer via mail, or via Internet banking using a Belarus-issued card
- by a parcel with various pleasant little things
- by a medical parcel with vitamins
Besides, you can:
- sing the Libereco petition for the release of Ales Bialiatski and the Belarusian political prisoners
- write an open letter and send it to email@example.com or to Telegram @spring96info
- publish a post about Ales with the hashtags #FreeAles #FreeViasna
- organize an action of solidarity with Ales Bialiatski if you are in a safe country
- support Viasna with donations on Patreon