Dear Siarhei Tsikhanouski,
You are a living portrait of defiance and pride for me. What was considered unthinkable and unpronounceable yesterday has become a reality in a short time. Humanity and human rights, freedom and the rule of law have been under attack and undermined in Belarus for a long time. It’s an attack on all of us.
When democracy is dying, it is inch by inch. Europe is tearing and crumbling, instead of sticking together; she forgot the words of Andrej Glucksmann that the road to democracy is very difficult. It is paved with battles and also with a certain solidarity, which is often forgotten.
History turns new pages. They are written in the old language. Many squares in Eastern Europe spoke about democracy, free elections, and artistic freedom in 1989. Thirty years later, the Belarusian government rejects free elections and Belarus has become a brutal, police state. In the age of neoliberalism many quickly forget concepts such as human rights, democracy, freedom of opinion and many do not even care that the Internet is censored. Alexander Lukashenko does not intend to tolerate any move towards real democracy, which he is very afraid of. Politicians of his type are dazzled by Russia and China; they see that it really works otherwise. The benefits of capitalism can be enjoyed without risking democracy.
It is about self-presentation and arrogance of power. Power again reveals its intention: to put life straight, to pull out everything beyond it and independent from it. But there is a different political style. The opposite of Lukashenko, Trump, Putin, Si Jinping, Orban, Erdogan, Babish, Zeman, Kaczynski … You and Sviatlana Tsikhanouska are changing the way people think about politics and democracy.
Only authentic personalities can unite and convince people in crises. Politics means responsibility. It is the opposite of oligarchs and politicians of the “Trump” style who try to deceive the world with the help of social networks. To be authentic means, in other words, to live a life of truth.
In Belarus, people are bravely demonstrating against a return to totalitarianism. They defied the role of a helpless part of the dictator’s machine. They found a deeper responsibility for the world and their place in it. The struggle for freedom and free critical thinking is difficult at all times and never ends. Not only the Eastern European variant of capitalism today re-establishes the law of the jungle: the stronger rules the weaker and where money speaks the truth is silent. But the law of democracy is: the stronger protects the weaker.
The questions that Belarus forwards to the world are simple and universal today. An individual or a mass? An open democracy or a closed society? Tolerance and freedom or totalitarianism? The way we have reduced democracy to business is not working. The protests in Belarus are also a brave defence of human rights, defending the rights of all of us.
You fight injustice; you showed bureaucratic arbitrariness on your YouTube channel Strana dlja žizni, you exposed corruption. You are not afraid to stand up for rights in public. By doing so you also defend freedom of speech. And that is the basis of human rights, the root of humanity, the mother of truth. To cut off freedom of speech means to trample on human rights in its infancy, to stifle humanity, to obstruct the truth.
Dear Siarhei, I look forward to the day when Belarus is a country of democracy and the voice of every citizen has the same weight. As for brave people like you who are being silenced, arrested and tortured for their views in Belarus today, I hope that these are the last victims of dictator Lukashenko. Now we need a cool head, clear reason, bold thinking. The truth at this time is so obscure and hidden, and the lie so widespread that the truth is not known to those who do not love it.
The people of Belarus are in the streets. These are living portraits of defiance and pride. In every dislocated time, there are imaginary monuments of personal courage.
Such was the seemingly inconspicuous act of a Hamburg shipyard worker. In 1936, during the ceremonial launch of a military ship, he refused to raise his right hand with the crowd to salute Hitler. The photo was published sixty years later. It captures a man in the middle of a forest of raised arms. Also a living portrait of defiance and pride. His next fate is unknown. Freedom does not exist unless it is reflected in concrete actions.
You show that we need a sense of morality to maintain what is good and just in our lives. You reiterate and remind the world of the old truth that the measure of our provocative hope is the measure of our ability to strive for something because it is moral and not just because there is certain success. Young people in your country and ours are fed up with the fact that only those who despise it talk about democracy. They do not want the populists to steal their hope, their future and exchange it for lethargy.
Dear Siarhei, your stay in prison is of great importance in the time of general resignation. You have shown that it makes sense to be a brave citizen. You are helping to restore broken solidarity. We know about you and we are on your side.
Perhaps even this report and awareness of international solidarity will help you and others to get through difficult times in prison. Improvement will only come if we can complicate the lives of dictators and people in power and talk about everything openly. Every authoritarian regime was eventually forced to pave the way for democracy. That is our hope. A hope for Belarus as well. It’s just a matter of endurance.
28. 10. 2020