While falsified elections are nothing new in Belarus, Lukashenka’s bogus claim to victory in the August 2020 presidential poll sparked a pro-democracy movement unparalleled in the country’s history. Since then, hundreds of thousands have taken to the streets to demand free and fair elections, the release of political prisoners and justice for the victims of the regime’s brutality.
One year on, The Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes, the Prague Civil Society Centre and the Vaclav Havel Library invited representatives of the Belarusian opposition to discuss the state of the pro-democracy movement in Belarus, and what supporters of a free Belarus can do from abroad.
The panel took place Thursday, November 11 at the Vaclav Havel Library, and was moderated by the Prague Civil Society Centre’s Executive Director Rostislav Valvoda and Deputy Director of the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes, Ondřej Matějka.
Guest Tatiana Khomich is the sister of jailed Belarusian pro-democracy activist Maria Kalesnikava, and also a representative of the Coordination Council headed by presidential candidate Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya to facilitate a democratic transfer of power in Belarus. Khomich spoke about her sister’s treatment in prison and the immense pressure exerted on political prisoners in the country.
“The most important thing right now is to remind them they haven’t been forgotten, that people are thinking about them in Belarus and outside of the country”, Khomich said.
Kryscina Šyjanok represented the Belarusian diaspora in the Czech Republic, explaining that the diaspora community was energised by the events inside their home country in 2020, with many people becoming more actively involved the struggle to rid the country of dictatorship.
Franak Viacorka, Senior Advisor to Tsikhanouskaya, emphasised that new sources of energy are also key to sustaining the movement inside the country after months of arrests and operations aimed at liquidating independent media and civil society.
“Our most precious resources are energy, hope, and small successes”, said Viacorka. “This is how we will win—with strategic patience, consistency and allies”.
The Prague Civil Society Centre and the Czech Women’s Lobby co-hosted a talk on the Belarus women’s marches.
As part of her official visit to the Czech Republic, leader of the Belarusian democratic opposition Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya met with representatives of Czech civil society in Prague.