Monday, April 18, 2011


So, there's this place called Belaruse, which I've been vaguely of for many a year.  I suspect because of a song by the Levellers, the lyrics go like this:

Belaruse no longer feels the sun
But it's under the skin of everyone
Belaruse forgotten by the blind
That is until the next time

Remember all your yesterdays
In the deep blue
Before the world came
And rested there on you

And if the sun and moon
Were both to doubt
Then sure enough
They'd both go out
When you can't walk in your field
Feel water in your hands
You've been touched by the doubt of man

I'm not quite sure what the song means, if I'm honest, I've never been sure what it's about.  So imagine my surprise at reading an article about current day Belaruse, in the Guardian newspaper last week (reprinted in the Observer).  The article is subtitled:
Just two hours from Britain is Europe's last dictatorship, a country that recalls Stalinist Russia and where critics of the government 'disappear'. But thanks to an underground theatre group – and supporters including Jude Law and Tom Stoppard – the world is finally waking up to its plight

Err what?  A Stalinist dictatorship in Europe?  Surely not.  But reading through, it seems to be the case.

Some choice sentences from the article:
"Their other daughter, 17-year-old Marya, is still in Belarus, as are their parents and they don't know when they'll ever see them again. They've been named enemies of the state, but, as Natalia repeatedly points out, they're the lucky ones. Many of their friends are in jail; others are dead."

"She's another unwilling activist. Another accidental campaigner. "I hate politics!" she says. "Hate it. And yet here I am! It's incredible to me." She's a doctor who's lived in Britain for the past 18 years, her partner is a British aeronautical engineer, but on 19 December last year, her brother, Andrei Sannikov, Belarus's most credible opposition leader, and a presidential candidate, was beaten up, arrested, and is being held in a KGB jail awaiting what in effect amounts to a show trial."
"We found a lawyer, but they de-barred him, because that's what they do."

"This isn't like Russia in the 80s. It's Russia in 1937. These mass arrests. People being disappeared. It's the purges."

"Two out of eight presidential candidates are in KGB jails; another is under house arrest, although at one point seven out of the eight had been detained. ("Even in Russia, they renamed the KGB the FSB," says Natalia. "In Belarus, they didn't even bother.") Another, Ales Mikhalevic, has now fled to the Czech Republic and at a press conference told how he was tortured by masked men."

"Viktor Gonchar, the leader of the opposition, simply disappeared while driving home. Vanished."

A woman named Natalia Kaliada is spearheading the opposition in the U K (Natalia is the she referred to in all the above quotes).  From the sounds of this article Ms Kaliada is an amazing woman, and my new hero.  How the duck is this sort of thing still happening, in Europe of all places?  No wonder I've not heard much about Belaruse, I can't imagine the government lets much information out.

In terms of how to help, well Amnesty are doing a lot of work to help Ms Kaliada.  I am a member of Amnesty. I believe in what they do and I believe in their reputation, their stance and their committment to their work.  They are outspoken about both women's and queer issues and they get things done.  I trust them and I think they have their priorities right.

1 comment:

Jesu said...

'Belarus' is also a song by Low. It's pretty good.