15 September 2020
The European Conservatives and Reformists Group in the European Parliament have chosen the democratic opposition in Belarus, represented by Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, as its nominee for the 2020 Sakharov Prize for freedom of thought.
Over the past month, thousands of Belarusians have peacefully protested across the country over falsified elections on August 9, after which Alexander Lukashenko claimed a sixth term as president. Demonstrators, including factory workers, media representatives, students and former police officers, have called for the President to step down. The widespread support for the protestors highlight society‘s attitude towards the demonstrations as they are a result of the incredible solidarity within Belarusian society. We are witnessing a historic moment, a rebirth of the Belarusian national identity which is likely to change the history of the country, and consequently the wider European region.
We believe that the Sakharov Prize for the democratic opposition, represented by Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, would send a clear message of support and solidarity from the European Parliament to the Belarusian people, who have been peacefully protesting on the streets of Minsk, but also in small towns and municipalities across the whole country. They demonstrate tremendous courage, strength and determination, while facing repression, torture, unemployment or being dismissed from universities.
As stated by the people of Belarus themselves, these protests have no leaders. We see brave women and men, youths and elderly people, students and workers. We have witnessed many examples of solidarity across the whole spectrum of society. This feeling of solidarity and the common fight for the rights of people of Belarus cannot be stolen or appropriated by anyone.
There are many faces to that movement such as repressed journalists and representatives of independent media, families of killed protesters, people tortured in prisons, workers, organisers of women solidarity marches or opposition leaders. We believe that Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, as a leader of the Coordination Council and main opponent of Lukashenko during the elections, will be the best representative of the democratic opposition in Belarus. We are convinced that such a symbolic gesture is the best possible way to recognise and honour the courage, unity, strength and determination of the Belarusian society. Sviatlana Tsikhanouska is a mother of two, a language teacher, whose husband was jailed in May 2020 for being an opponent to Lukashenka during the presidential elections. Sviatlana became one of many frustrated Belarusians who had enough of living under an oppressive and corrupt regime. She is an inspiration to many human rights defenders around the world.
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