Belarusian women: “We are the power here!”

Every Saturday the streets of Minsk are filled with Belarusian women of all ages and professions. Together they belong to a large peace-making community that is coordinated through the social networks. It is common to get together with the flowers and posters to march through the key points of the downtown raising the awareness on the situation in the country. Let’s flash back to the events of September, 5.

“I am 37 and I have seen many things before; none of what I’ve been through is comparable to the liberation I am experiencing now. I fight for the future of my children, of my own and for all the young women that attend this protest. Sometimes I feel like I should guard them, when I see riot buses approaching. It is often a matter of smiling or shouting the right slogan and I see that the fear in their eyes is turning into courage. These are the moments worth living,” Natallya, a mother of three children, says.

The police follow the ladies all the way and keep megaphoning that their event is illegal. The women laugh and try to add the volume to their new favourite chants: “None is gonna sleep with you!”, “We don’t need any escort!”, “Get undressed!”, “Show your face!”. This self-organised crowd usually splits at the traffic lights, but it is inseparable: the women signal to each other “Wait for us!” and make a full stop to reunite with the rest of the column. When the streets are not blocked by the road police, cars honk to show their solidarity. It is now a recognisable melody made of “Long live Belarus” rhythm.

Women’s protest in Independence Square. Minsk. 5 September 2020. Photo: Belsat.eu

Hanna has a poster quoting the national law:

“I am a 20-year-old student of Minsk State Linguistic University and I am fed up with what they are doing to the students and other guys. I show my poster to all cars, although my target is the police. My aim is to remind of our rights and I want all of our political prisoners to be released. This is a police state and they broke the law. There must be the right of peaceful assembly. I believe that they won’t detain the column of women. Actually, it is too many of us here and I think we should march along the carriageway since it’s closed. It is closed for us and we are the power in here!”

Some women come for the first time; they engage in conversation with the newly-met comrades. The playlist of revolution 2020 consists of widely known NRM songs and composition Break The Prison Walls performed by Syarhei Tsikhanouski. Syarhei’s wife Svyatlana is an inspiring figure due to her running for presidency in the 2020 election and standing up for her husband. The female marchers support all the male detainees in the country, including Viktar Kuushynau, a top manager at IT company PandaDoc. Girls hold panda toys in their hands or wear panda costumes.

Women’s protest in Independence Square. Minsk. 5 September 2020. Photo: Belsat.eu

“I believed in the idea of retraining the riot police and those in need. The IT sector was one of the most profitable in Belarus. What is going on today is a political disaster to all of us. Who is going to pay the taxes? I find my pijama super comfortable, it is quite a fitness to walk all day long and I am happy to be a panda for once,” 26-year-old Kseniya said.

After the march all the ladies enjoy the sun in Independence Square. This is a new selfie spot in the city and it was possible to reach out to the House of Government and the monument to Vladimir Lenin. But not now: the riot police push the women back. Many girls respond with the depicted scenes of violence against the protesters after the election. Here the group behaves differently: some ladies try using direct eye contact and shouting “Go away” and “How much is your conscience?” to the riot police, others keep a little distance for their safety and dance in circles or sing the Belarusian folk song Kupalinka.

Women’s protest in Independence Square. Minsk. 5 September 2020. Photo: Belsat.eu

Alena, 29, holds a white-red-white flag and takes a selfie with the riot police in the background:

“I am afraid, yes. But I used to live abroad and I want to show what is going on to my foreign friends. They will be astonished by the fact I am guarded by special forces right in the city centre. This is too much!”.

For many protesters there is an additional concern: the building of the Red Church behind them is also in the focus of the government. The women gather at the church’s stairs facing the riot police in black or green suits and balaclavas. Their anger at being surrounded by the men without any insignia surpasses their fear, and the ladies mockingly join the guard lines too. Shutouts continue till the beginning of the church service; then some ladies head to the church to pray for Belarus. Welcoming the parishioners, Bishop Yury Kasabutski pays attention to the police’s demands that turn to be a small obstacle to the service. Then he claims that the Belarusian women make a divine contribution to the peaceful resolution of the political crisis in the country. The service is attended by the group of diplomats and is missed by Roman Catholic Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz, a Belarusian citizen, who has been recently banned from entering the country.

“I am not a Catholic, but I came to leave my signature for Kondrusiewicz’s return. I am shocked at the government’s intention to grab the Red Church from the Roman Catholic group and its attacks on them. I remember the riot police’s blocking the entrance to the church; even though I am used to protest in another district of Minsk, I made a decision to come here this time. I am already retired and I have many duties related to my health, but for once I felt like I should be here. And I agree with what Kasabutski said: the women of Belarus is a kind of blessing to this country, and I know that the ones who stand for the love, for the truth are protected by God. We will win,” Katsyaryna said.

Minsk office of the PandaDoc IT-company searched

Bella Fox, belsat.eu

News