Unmarked gunmen brutally detain Irdorath band musicians over ‘participating in protests’

16 persons, including former and current members of the Minsk-based musical band Irdorath, had been brutally detained on August 2, human rights centre Viasna reported on Tuesday.

Screenshot: МВД Беларуси / Youtube

According to the Main Department for Combatting Organised Crime and Corruption (the notorious GUBAZiK/GUBOPiK), the reason for the detention was the musicians’ repeatedly leading a column of protesters in 2020, ‘using wind instruments to involve passers-by in‘unauthorised mass events’; the siloviki say that their music ‘was strengthening protest moods and egged the protesters on to commit wrongful acts against police forces’.

The video published by the Interior Ministry shows that soldiers without any insignia (but they were armed with machine guns and shotguns) were sent to arrest the members of the band (Uladzimir Kalach, Nadzeya Kalach, Anton Shnyp, Pyotr Marchanka, Pavel Shmyha, Yuliya Yunitskaya, Alyaksandr Sinkevich) and their friends. They allegedly gathered at the summer cottage to celebrate the birthday of frontwoman Nadzeya Kalach.

(UPD) Six of the 16 detainees are suspects in the criminal case (‘organisation of actions that grossly violate public order, or taking part in them’); the rest are expected to be tried under the Code of Administrative Offences for ‘disobedience to the police’.

Since 2011, Irdorath has been playing the music which is close to folk, but it also has elements of fantasy. The band is also known for using bright fantasy costumes and staging incredible concerts with neon and fire shows.

By the moment, the band has released three studio albums. In 2016, music portal Tuzinfm.by listed their work I Was. I Am. I Will Be as the Song of the Year. Before the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, Irdorath actively toured. In 2017, it performed at Wacken, Europe’s largest metal music festival held in northern Germany.

Irdorath played during post-election protest marches, e.g. they performing the iconic song We Crave for Change using bagpipes and drums. At the end of 2020, the musicians lost their jobs at the Viktoryia Children and Youth Centre due to participating in yard concerts in Minsk; they were also deprived of a rehearsal venue.