PJHR Affiliate on Asheville Radio: Human Rights in Belarus

Monday, Apr 05, 2021


The United States has not recognized Alexander Lukashenka's victory in the August 2020 presidential elections in Belarus. Neither has the Belarusian nation, which responded with mass peaceful protests that swept the entire county. In return, Lukashenka launched a genocidal campaign with more than 35,000 unlawful arrests, unprecedented brutality, and violence directed against his own people. 

Last week, Assistant Professor in FAU’s School of Public Administration and Faculty Affiliate of Peace, Justice and Human Rights initiative, Dr. Palina Prysmakova commented on the situation in a one-hour radio show on WPVMFM Asheville's Community Station. She shared her and her family’s personal experience, as well as the decade of research that she conducted on the country.

The citizen of Belarus, Dr. Prysmakova has been optimistic that the mass protest will lead to the government change at this time. "There is no way back", she says, and adds that the Belarusians have been already patient enough. Through the 26 years of Lukashenka presidency, they have already tried all other possible legal options to remove him. In the previous rounds of the presidential elections, the opposition offered the voters a united candidate from all the independent parties, in the hope that that person would get enough votes to counterbalance Lukashenka’s scores. On the other occasion, they registered a dozen of candidates, hoping to achieve the similar effect for their combined votes. The one before the last time, the population largely boycotted the elections and refused to show up at the election polls. 

The effect has always been the same: according to Lukashenka’s administration, who has been responsible to count the votes, the elections have been declared valid with Lukashenka winning with his 80+% majority of votes. Dr. Prysmakova questions the legitimacy of any Lukashenka’s terms, yet agrees that it would have been hard to prove as any evidence have been thoroughly destroyed. 

August 2020 elections were followed by the similar official annoucement, yet also by a mass protests that gathered more than 300,000 people on the streets.  Have been closely studying Belarusian population for the last decade, Dr. Prysmakova sees a generation change as the main reason behind the mass character of the current protests. Most of the today’s Belarusians are not willing to exchange their personal comfort for the unlimited rights given to the president. 

The life in the 1990s was very tough, and Lukashenka have been using the rhetoric of him being a warrant for not going back for over two decades. Yet, the people born in the late 1980s and 1990s remember the roughness of those times only vaguely. It was the time of their childhood be that as it may. What they do remember, however, that they have never seen any other head of the country than Lukashenka. 

The youth has been systematically denied the freedoms of speech and self-expression, yet they understood well the bluff behind the official entertainment offered by the government, let it be the public TV or the pompous celebrations of the official holidays. Resisting participation, they hid themselves by the computer monitors. No wonder, that today, they have a lot of IT-skills including those that played important role in the current protests: with or without formal engineering education, in the virtual space, the Belarusians can create anything from neighborhood chats to sophisticated platforms to collect donations for the victims of the regime.

In her interview, Dr. Prysmakova also answered the questions about why we do not see many Belarusian restaurants around, why Belarusian tourism did not suffer from the COVID, what it takes to be arrested for administrative violation, and why Lukashenka offers the American nation his help to resolve its internal problems.