Arrested in ‘the last dictatorship in Europe’
Solidarity action for freedom in Belarus and against death penalty, in Stockholm 18th of March
It’s been quiet from me here for a while. Let’s say it’s been pretty hectic, to say the least. I thought it’s time to update you on what has been going on in my life.
When I’m not blogging, I’m also a human rights activist. My focus is Belarus, the last dictatorship in Europe. It always strikes me, when I come back home from my trips to that country, that the capital Minsk is only 1,5 hour away from Stockholm with direct flight. Still, it’s another world. A world upside down. It’s always hard to leave that country and get back to safe Sweden. You get upset, sad and angry. How come I was lucky enough to be born in Sweden, where I get what ever I want to get, where I can say what ever is on my mind – and where I can choose to criticize the government or other regimes on a blog like this, when others get punished for doing the same?
I just came back from my sixth trip to Belarus, a few days ago. It was probably one of the most important trips I’ve done to that country.
One of the meetings I had during this trip was with a 16-year old political activist. He reminds me of myself, when I started getting active in youth politics, also in his age. Except, he grew up in “another world”. I was going to talk to him about life as a young activist in the dictatorship. How he has been harassed by secret service, how he’s been kicked out from home because of views and his desire for freedom and democracy. But we didn’t even get to start, until we found ourselves surrounded by police officers and were forced into a van.
We spent three hours in arrest that day. It was a day I will never forget. The feeling that you don’t know what’s going to happen to you, that somebody else is under control of your freedom. My guess is that they wanted to scare us, but you can never know how they’re thinking in a dictatorship like Belarus, or why they are doing what they are doing. Things are simply always a bit upside down and it’s a fact that people get in trouble when they’re trying to live with some kind of basic human rights. During these three hours, I couldn’t stop worrying about that young Belarusian activist, who they took to another room in the police station. Somehow I felt safe, since I knew that it would be a scandal for them to keep Swedish citizens in the arrest for more than three hours without any particular reason (after three hours they have to either let you go or charge you with a crime, according to Belarusian law). And even if it wasn’t a pleasant experience, I must say that they treated us rather OK compared to the young activist, and how they usually treat Belarusian citizens.
Today, I’m back in Sweden again. Free to write about what ever I want to write about. Free to organize protests, solidarity meetings, and free to criticize my government and our politicians without fear… without punishment. I still can’t let go of the thought, that my friends, journalist and activist contacts over there are under constant oppression and control. Some of them can’t even leave their own country, since president Lukashenka has started to punish people by giving them a travel ban stamped into their passports – taking them as hostage. I guess he needs his hostages because he’s afraid. Afraid of loosing that precious power of his, and he knows that it’s coming. Just as it did in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya etc. What strikes me is also that if I lived in that country as a Belarusian citizen, I would probably have been jailed long time ago. ‘Cause I’m not the one who can be quiet when people are oppressed, jailed, tortured and even killed (yes, Belarus is the last country in Europe still using death penalty, shooting people in the head) without any justice. Why else are we born with the ability to speak, criticize and think?
So why am I even telling you this story? Well I guess I just want to make you aware. Want you to think, for at least one minute, on that 16 year old boy for whom an arrest has become a horrifying tradition he can’t opt out. I also want you to think at least one minute on Ales Bialiatski, who’s been fighting for other peoples human rights for 15 years and who’s now imprisoned for 4,5 years and probably also tortured, just as the oppositional presidential candidates still imprisoned since the presidential election in 2010.
Give one minute of your freedom to these guys and to the people of Belarus. And speak out about it. It’s our responsibility to speak out for the silenced. If not we, then who?