Im Sommer 2020 gingen Bilder von Massendemonstrationen auf belarussischen Straßen als Reaktion auf die Manipulation der Präsidentenwahlen um die Welt. Auf die Forderungen der Protestierenden gegen die umstrittene Wiederwahl des diktatorischen Machthabers Aljaksandr Lukaschenka und für mehr Selbstbestimmung reagierte das Regime mit voller Härte. Zahlreiche Menschenrechtsverstöße wurden gemeldet, zehntausende Menschen verhaftet.
Um Erfahrungen, Motivationen, Hoffnungen und Traumata der Beteiligten festzuhalten, baut die belarussische Historikerin Iryna Kashtalian am Institut für Europastudien der Universität Bremen ein wissenschaftliches Oral History Archiv zu den Bürgerprotesten in Belarus im Sommer 2020 auf. Durch ihre Interviews mit belarussischen Aktivisten und Aktivistinnen erschafft sie ein Forum für die Menschen hinter den Protesten, wie es in Belarus selbst derzeit nicht möglich ist.
Wir veröffentlichen hier in englischer Sprache einen gekürzten Auszug aus dem Interview mit einem freiwilligen Wahlbeobachter, der im August 2020 in Minsk verhaftet wurde. Sein Bericht von der Wahl und den Erfahrungen in Haft gibt Einblicke in den Kampf für mehr Selbstbestimmung der Bevölkerung in Belarus.
Hören Sie hier auch den History and Politics Podcast mit Iryna Kashtalian zu ihrem Interviewprojekt.
»I Was Afraid to Spend 15 Years Instead of 15 Days in Prison Next Time«
Extract from an Interview with a Belarusian Election Observer
Viktar [real name changed], Polish student from Minsk, comes from a Belarusian-speaking family, which was previously involved in protests. He was an election observer in August 2020.
Experiences during Election
During the elections on August 9, 2020, I was an observer for the "Human Rights Activists for Free Elections" (Minsk) at two polling stations. I did this because of the threat of people being barred from the elections. But I could actually not enter either of the stations. Therefore, the other observers and I decided to count all people who entered the polling station no. 36 from the two existing entrances. It turned out that the number of those who entered the building was smaller than the number of people who allegedly voted in early elections. At the polling station no. 29, on the main day we counted more people entering to the polling station than were on the list. It was clear that numbers meant nothing.
After the end of the election, I went home, changed my clothes to go to the polling station, awaiting the results. I was waiting at the 29th precinct, together with 50-100 others. A couple of buses with OMON forces [a Special Purpose Police Detachment under the direct control of the Ministry of Internal Affairs in Belarus] arrived. We let them pass, all of them kept their hands on their pistols. And while they were standing at the entrance, a commission came out. And only after they had left and gotten on the bus the last person published the protocol stating that Lukashenka "won".
The student took part in the demonstrations in the night after the elections. On August 11, he was arrested, went through beatings and tagging and was placed in the notorious prison on Akrestsina street in Minsk. After several days there he was released without trial.
Afterwards we went to a shopping center named "Riga" in the company of 10-15 people. By the time we got there, there were already barricades and abandoned buses. After 20-30 minutes, OMON forces appeared and began to disperse the group. We stood far enough and hardly saw anything but the OMON helmets when we looked back. We ran to my house and sat there for a while. I heard grenade explosions until 4 o'clock. I saw visible flashes and heard explosions.
On August 11, I went to a friend's house. We didn’t know if we would go out later, it was already scary. We agreed to meet with those whom we had met a day earlier. We went through the courtyards. When we left the yards, we saw a stream of protesters of several hundred people. We went with them. Then two buses followed them. When we passed Kiev square, we decided to step aside. At about 11 p.m., when we were passing through the Friendship of Peoples Park, we were detained. My friend and I were alone. They stopped near us. I acted clueless and asked if it was possible to go further, if it was safe. The first person told us that we should better turn around and go the other way. And when we turned around, several people ran out and demanded us to show our phones. At first, we didn’t want to show them, but we realized that we wouldn’t get away with that. My friend had photos and videos from August 10 of [the gathering at the] shopping center and so they arrested us.
People in olive uniform detained us. We were handed over to OMON forces who poured white paint over my head. It was like a marker indicating that I had thrown something at them. They themselves did not know what I had supposedly thrown, either stones or paint. So, they marked me and took me to the "Paddy Wagon" (avtozak). There were quite a few people in there. We had to lay on the floor on top of each other in two or three layers. We were driven to (what I think) was some kind of a police station, because it was on the territory of an administrative building. We were transferred from the bus to not green cars, but gray ones, which carry »prisoners« to the detention center directly.
When we arrived at the prison, they took us out of the paddy wagons and put us in a line at the fence. We were told to kneel with our heads down. We spent 2-3 hours like that. We were beaten all this time. I, marked with paint, was asked to raise my head to make sure it was me and they pulled me out and beat me for several minutes. Then they told me to return to my place in the line. Later we had to strip naked and to hold our clothes in our hands. While I was undressing, I began to lose consciousness: it was getting dark in my eyes, my body was getting weak. I asked them for ammonia [a medicine that is inhaled to prevent fainting], to this request there was no reaction. I asked for quite a long time and the only thing I got were some more hits on the back because I took too long.
On the morning of August 14, we were taken outside. There was a procedure for signing a warning that we will no longer participate in unauthorized events and our personal information was written down again. After that, we were released in groups of 20 people.
After my detention I didn't go to protests anymore. I was discouraged because there were rumors that those who were caught a second time, would immediately be sued for a criminal offense. That is what I was afraid of. I would not be afraid to go through the same and conditionally leave after 15 days, but I was afraid to spend 15 years in prison instead of 15 days.