Repressions against artists do not stop in the country
Cultural life in Belarus is suffocating under the conditions of brutal persecution of dissidents, said the international human rights organization Amnesty International on Sunday, recalling that the Belarusian authorities arbitrarily detain and torture musicians, writers, artists and actors, while others are fired from their jobs.
According to the organization, state repression that followed the protests against the highly controversial re-election of Alexander Lukashenko as president is literally destroying the cultural life in Belarus. More and more cultural figures are facing baseless criminal charges, and some of them are now in custody and could be sentenced to long prison terms.
“The scale of the repression of the Belarusian culture cannot be underestimated. The authorities are systematically destroying the vibrant cultural life of Belarus and its brightest representatives, trying to eradicate even the slightest trace of freedom of expression and dissent,” said Aisha Jung, senior campaign manager for Belarus at Amnesty International.
As one example, Amnesty International cites the harassment suffered by Volya Semchenko, a former literary employee of the Mogilev Drama Theater. Beginning in October 2020, she was arrested and fined several times for participating in “unsanctioned” rallies, and then began to be harassed at work as well. The former theater director refused to fire Will and other opposition-minded employees. Then he himself was fired. And on February 18, Volya Semchenko also lost her job.
“After the first detention I was afraid to go home, I spent almost all my nights at friends’ houses. Now I got used to living with a constant feeling of danger. We are all ready to become victims of state persecution at any moment,” Wola told Amnesty International.
Amnesty International says that not only individuals but entire cultural organizations have become victims of state repression. An example of this is the country’s leading theater, the Yanka Kupala National Academic Theater. In August 2020, the theater’s director, Pavel Latushko, spoke in support of peaceful protesters. His contract was immediately terminated, and more than 60 theater employees, including almost all of the actors, walked out in protest.
“We will not stand by while the authorities of Belarus silence the country’s most creative people. Our global solidarity campaign supports all peaceful ways of protesting and resisting the Belarusian people’s cynical and intimidating attempts by the authorities to restrict their human rights and access to diverse ideas and opinions,” stressed Aisha Jang.