Written by Aashna Nayyar, a grade 9 student
A quick word on Belarus
Belarus is a small country located in Eastern Europe. It is bordered by Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia. Before gaining independence in 1991 Belarus (formerly known as Belorussia or White Russia) was one of the fifteen Slavic nations that made up the Soviet Union. The capital of Belarus is Minsk and its currency is the Belarusian ruble (0.38 USD). This country is known for its beautiful lakes, lush forests, and rare flora and fauna.
The dictatorial president
The current president of Belarus is Alexander Lukashenko. He is known as Europe’s last dictator and has been the first and only president of Belarus since his election in 1994. President Lukashenko has maintained his power for 26 years by using methods such as controlling the state economy, using police force against opposition etc. The police and military are extremely loyal towards him. The judiciary and parliament are under his control. While Vladimir Putin might personally not be very fond of Lukashenko, he has no interest in any kind of revolution that will lead to the removal of Lukashenko thus also giving him the support of the Kremlin.
On 9th August 2020, elections took place in Belarus. The candidates in this election were Alexander Lukashenko, Siarhei Cherachen, Hanna Kanapatskaya, Andrry Dmitriyeu and Svetlana Tikhanovskaya – a human rights activist and politician. Originally it was Svetlana’s husband Sergei Tikhanovskaya who was to run for the elections, but he and other rivals of President Lukashenko were arrested on the charges of inciting violence. Due to this Svetlana ran in his place.
On the voting day, the opposition was wary about possible fraud. The individual observers that were invited from the opposition documented a large number of irregularities. When the polling results were out it showed that President Lukashenko had won with a majority of 80% votes and that Svetlana Tikhanvoskaya had about 10% of the votes. While these results were approved by the authorities, Svetlana Tikhanvoskaya insisted that those were not the correct numbers and she has polled 60 to 70%.
What happened then?
Citizens were angered by the tampering and protested for Svetlana to be recognised as the winner of the presidential election. The night after the election 3000 were arrested in Minsk due to a violent protest. This was not the only protest that took place as more and more violent protests took place all around the country, Thousands of people were arrested. Police used tear gas, rubber bullets, and stun grenades on the protestors.
Svetlana tried to complain to the authorities but she was detained for 7 hours and then sent to exile in Lithuania. She tried to negotiate a transfer of power with President Lukashenko with the help of a co-ordination council that she launched. The president refused to have any negotiations and detained and questioned the members of the council. Svetlana also appealed to the international community (including the UN) to support her and force President Lukashenko out so that Belarus can be a democracy. She and the other opposition leaders have been given the Sakharov Prize by the European Parliament for their bravery, strength, and effort to help their country.
Svetlana Tikhanovskaya managed to gain the support of thousands of people and even in exile is trying her best to help her country. Her bravery and courage is an inspiration for all of us.
Before running for president, Tsikhanouskaya was an English teacher
Title image source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:2020_Sviatlana_Tsikhanouskaya_(50437385087)_(cropped).jpg
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