09/12/2020

Acceptance Speech – Ales Bialiatski

The Belarusian people continue their peaceful protest, their nonviolent mass resistance against violence and injustice. 

Dear friends! 

This year’s Right Livelihood Award to the Human Rights Centre “Viasna” and myself is a very important and exciting moment in our lives. We are receiving the award popularly called the Alternative Nobel prize at a time when a peaceful revolution is underway in Belarus. 

For six months now, the Belarusian society has been engaged in a breath-taking struggle.  

A fight for human rights, democracy and justice. A fight for the right to “be called people,” as Belarusian writer Yanka Kupala has said. A fight against Europe’s last dictator and the regime he has built over 26  years. 

This fight does not pass without sacrifices.  

Four demonstrators have been killed. More than 20,000 arrested and over 1,000 people injured. Thousands have been beaten and tortured. Murders, rapes and torture – this is what is happening now in Belarus. 

A European country that has found itself immersed in an atmosphere of state terror. 

Lukashenka has falsified election results and lost legitimacy in the eyes of Belarusians. His power only rests on the police and military forces. 

My fellow activists in Viasna are also being persecuted for their human rights work. Eighteen Viasna members and volunteers have been arrested and arbitrarily detained during 2020. Our colleague  Maryna Kastylianchanka has spent a month in prison. Viasna volunteer coordinator Marfa Rabkova, and volunteer Andrei Chapiuk have been in prison for three months already. 

They were arrested for organising food parcels for political prisoners in Minsk. The authorities considered this charitable aid a crime. As a result, they face several years of imprisonment. 

Viasna has been receiving constant threats from the police. Despite all the threats, we are continuing to assist victims of oppression. We are monitoring and analysing the human rights situation in the country. 

We are documenting cases of torture and inhuman treatment. And we are disseminating human rights information. 

In this difficult time, the highly prestigious Right Livelihood Award is a strong signal of moral support to us, human rights defenders of Viasna. The award indicates that what we have been doing in our country for the past 24 years for the sake of justice is right and necessary.  

We regard this award not only as a recognition of the quality of our work. We perceive it as a sign of solidarity from the entire democratic world with the people of Belarus. 

And it is also a clear signal to the Belarusian authorities. A signal that the world will never put up with the massive violations of human rights. The world will not accept what is happening in my country. If we want to prevent Belarus from turning into one huge GULAG concentration camp, we need to actively support Belarusian people today.  

Despite the Stalinist and fascist terror of the 1930s and 1950s, despite the post-Soviet Lukashenka authoritarianism of the last 26 years, it is impossible to eradicate the natural striving of Belarusians for human rights, freedom and independence. 

The last months of our peaceful revolution have shown that.  

The Belarusian people continue their peaceful protest, their nonviolent mass resistance against violence and injustice. 

It is something that the Lukashenka regime has no chance of coping with. 

The 2020 Right Livelihood Award has also been awarded to my dear colleague Nasrin Sotoudeh (Iran),  whose courage I admire, as well as Lottie Cunningham Wren (Nicaragua) and Bryan Stevenson (USA) – together, we are doing our best to make this world a little better.

Dear Nasrin is in a terrible situation now. I can imagine how it is for her to be in prison, and even harder to go back. Sometimes I have dreams that I am in prison again and those are my darkest dreams. My heart and soul are with Nasrin now.

Thank you.