|Europe’s youth demands freedom in Belarus
On 18 March 2013, the Young European Federalists (JEF-Europe) will organise for the 8th edition their pan-European "Free Belarus Action" in numerous European cities to decry Europe’s last dictatorship and to show support for the suppressed Belarusian people lacking even basic human rights taken for granted by Europeans elsewhere today. In 2012, almost 100 cities all over the globe and various organisations joined JEF’s call for more freedom in Belarus.
JEF-Europe is convinced that values such as freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and association, freedom of press, minority rights and other basic human rights are key achievements of Mankind, building the corner stones of every peaceful and prosperous society. Those values are commonly accepted in Europe as our common values and codified by the Council of Europe. Hence, it is absolutely unacceptable for Europe to tolerate Mr. Lukashenka’s nasty dictatorship which deprives its own citizens from enjoying even basic freedoms taken for granted by Europeans elsewhere today.
Since 2006, JEF-Europe has spearheaded a broad coalition of civil society organisations aiming to raise awareness of the undemocratic regime in Belarus and the EU's ambiguous and hypocritical approach towards it. JEF members and other human rights activists recall the need to break the deafening silence that is imposed on Belarusian civilians by Lukashenka's regime by symbolically gagging prominent statues and putting megaphones in front of them in a pan-European action. This way we show the world that silence – either of Belarusian civilians silenced by Lukashenka’s illegitimate security forces, or EU politicians refusing to speak up on the situation in Belarus – simply cannot be tolerated anymore.
JEF-Europe therefore, organises its 8th pan-European “Free Belarus Action” in numerous European cities to denounce Europe’s last dictatorship and to demand more freedom for the people in Belarus on 18 March 2013. “Outside of the focus of the mass media human rights violations in Belarus are a sad reality on our doorstep: opposition activists have been consistently silenced and jailed, large civil protests after the 2010 presidential elections have been brutally dissolved by the police, independent media is been suppressed, internet users are frequently reported by their service providers for visiting opposition websites – and despite all this, the European Union and its member states remain still silent to express a clear and common attitude on Belarus,” deplores JEF-Europe President Pauline Gessant.
“Recalling EU ambassadors from Minsk and expanding the black list of sanctions have abysmally failed to deliver the intended change in behaviour. The EU now needs a tougher and more united stance towards Lukashenka’s regime. Further travel and visa restrictions against high officials as well as restrictive measures such as the freezing of assets must be considered by the European Union. Belarus is the crucial test case whether the future foreign policy of the European Union will be indeed by guided by European values or whether this claim just serves PR purposes,” further explains Gessant.
“The European Union has committed itself to the promotion of peace, democracy and human rights among its member states as well as with other states. Therefore, it cannot ignore the persistent violations of these crucial principles in its immediate vicinity. Human rights violations in Belarus are a concern for all Europeans as they basically happen next door! With regards to the so far unsuccessful attempts to rein in Alexander Lukashenka, JEF calls for a more articulate stance against his authoritarian regime and for the EU not to forget the Belarusian people – they are Europeans as much as any citizen of the Union!” concludes Radoslava Šeráková, Free Belarus Action coordinator.
JEF emphasizes that choosing silence instead of speaking up is intolerable and calls on Europe to stand up for the defence of freedom, democracy and human rights in Belarus. On 18 March, JEF will once again speak up with its street actions and invite European politicians and people all over the world to join us in a global call for freedom, democracy and humanity in Belarus.
History of Free Belarus Action
Alarmed by clear signs of planned fraud in the Belarusian presidential elections in 2006, JEF launched the first “Free Belarus Action” ‘muzzling’ statutes in 23 cities, raising awareness for the silenced opposition in Belarus. In next two years, cooperation with other civil society actors was intensified and the message of the action broadened by including the European dimension of the situation in Belarus. In 2008, for the first time more than 100 cities participated and a year later, wide media coverage reached even Belarus and Russia. In 2010, another presidential election in Belarus inspired JEF to stage two actions in the same year. In 2012, JEF further broadened the collaboration with other NGOs and set up a permanent webpage www.free-belarus.eu in order to raise awareness all year long.
JEF remains dedicated to calling for democracy in Belarus and solidarity with its people. As long as Lukashenka’s dictatorial regime ignores the human rights and oppress the freedom of Belarusians, JEF will organize its ‘Free Belarus’ actions and speak up for democracy in Belarus!
Details on the 8th Pan-European Street Action for a Free and Democratic Belarus!
Who: JEF-Europe (Young European Federalists) and partners
What: Organising flash mobs, conferences, debates, street actions, press conferences and sending personal messages written on banners to Belarus
Where: Simultaneously in cities across Europe and the world
When: 18th March 2013 - the anniversary of Lukashenka’s condemned election victory in 2006
Why: Ever since coming to the power in 1994 the president of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenka, oppressed the freedom of his people and ignored their voices. JEF believes that a united Europe can be achieved only if all people in Europe become united in their action and support each other. Freedom is a key foundation of a just and democratic Europe and we, as Europeans, cannot leave the Belarusian citizens behind!
How: By collecting the actions’ photos from young people all over Europe and putting them on the JEF blog within few hours from the action, we make an important statement that will be heard loud and clear by the EU institutions and officials, the dictatorial regime and the citizens of Belarus.
More information on www.free-belarus.eu
Pauline Gessant, JEF Europe President, president(at)jef.eu, +33 683 116 009
Radoslava Šeráková, Free Belarus Action Coordinator, radoslava.serakova(at)jef.eu