I am fighting the machines, literally, the system. Bit by bit, squeezing a slave, a victim, and an impostor out of me. That is what we all do, the entire Belarusian nation. That is what all women do, especially in Belarus.
We are fighting the system, the invisible. We are trapped in a vicious circle of a freedom fight and a peaceful protest for over 365 days because we want to avoid more victims. We do not want to use the same manipulative, violent tools the totalitarian regime is using. Still, facing the fact of more and more people being tortured and killed. It is a reality of the entire Belarusian nation that is trapped in an abusive relationship with a dictator for 27 years now.
This is me, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, a leader of democratic Belarus. One year ago, I risked becoming a candidate for the presidency in 2020. I did it instead of my husband Siarhei, who was imprisoned by authorities and denied doing it himself. Siarhei, along with more than 600 other political prisoners, fearless men, and women, remains behind bars for more than a year already.
Yet another time after another fraud election, our nation has awakened and is fighting for its’ freedom desperately and worthily since spring 2020. Sometimes we feel quite left alone with our struggle. Sometimes we hardly see the light at the end of a tunnel. Especially when you read another story about someone tortured or another suicide attempt by the political prisoner. More than 36,000 innocent people passed through brutal repressions. And this number grows every day.
After yet another ridiculous announcement, the court hearing on a flute player and my president’s campaign partner Maria Kalesnikava and a lawyer Maksim Znak, prominent Belarusian freedom fighters, will be secret. It means close to the public. The totalitarian regime does not want any publicity because Maria’s and Maksim’s will for freedom was not broken by a year in jail.
The trial on my husband Siarhei Tsikhanouski lasts already over a month and a half. He faces up to 15 years in prison with fabricated evidence. Several prominent figures and political prisoners charged in my husband’s high-profile case: famous journalist Ihar Losik, as well as Mikalai Statkevich, Uladzimer Tsyhanovich, Artsyom Sakau, and Dzmitry Papou. But there are many more of them under similar charges.
Before you could say it’s the internal Belarus crisis, after the Ryanair plane hijacking, it became the all-European crisis. We are dealing with an unpredictable and unaccountable regime ready for the ugliest crimes.
However, after a moment of disappointment, there comes a moment of inspiration. When I see people in the streets who, despite the terror, continue protesting, hanging flags, holding rallies, handing out newspapers, I am recharged with energy. After all, the genie is out of the bottle, and no machine in the world that can put the genie back.
Belarusians who took to the streets a year ago said loud and clear that we are here and we will not give up. And it gives me strength to continue the fight along with them. And most importantly, we are not alone in this struggle. Europe, and the whole free world, stood with us. And we are moving forward, step by step. Yes, we all wish it was faster, that it was easier. But we have to be patient. We know we are following the right goal. And we know that our path to democracy, though difficult, is necessary. Along the way and in this struggle, we find friends and allies.
I am Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, Belarusian woman who came to politics without any political background and had to learn fast. Along with the Belarusian people, I am fighting these machines, the totalitarian system. Will you stand by me?