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The Belarusian opposition, Sakharov Prize 2020

(B2) The peaceful protest and courage of a people against the power of a regime and a man, the Belarusian Alexander Lukashenko, is highlighted honor by the European Parliament

Svetlana Tikhanovskaya at the Foreign Affairs Committee (credit: European Parliament)

Since August 9, she has been contesting the re-election of the " last dictator of Europe » as one of the most active MEPs on this issue, the Lithuanian Petras Austrevicius, calls it. Since September, the European Parliament has relayed the testimonies of activists, journalists and citizens pursued, brutalized and tortured by the police of the Lukashenko regime. Last week, it again adopted, by a very large majority, a resolution to demand that the European Union review its relations with Belarus.

European support

Since this summer, the first demonstrations and their repression by the Lukashenko regime, the European Parliament has supported the organization of new elections, the release of those detained, and an end to police brutality and violence against demonstrators. The announcement on Thursday noon (22.10) by David Sassoli, its president, that the 2020 Sakharov Prize was going to this peaceful opposition therefore surprised no one.

…and parliamentary diplomacy 

The Sakahrov Prize – named after the Soviet physicist and political dissident – ​​is awarded (along with 50 euros) by the European Parliament to celebrate freedom of thought. Every year since 000, several candidates have been nominated by the political groups that make up the European hemicycle. This year, the three main groups in the European Parliament – ​​the Christian Democrats of the EPP, the Social Democrats of the S&D, the Liberals of Renew, as well as the Conservatives of ECR ​​– had all proposed to distinguish the opposition to power of Lukashenko. A rather rare unanimity.

Thanks to Parliament

« Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought 2020 goes to the democratic opposition of Belarus. Thanks to the @Europarl_EN It's a great honor for all Belarusians! “, reacted on his Twitter account Svetlana Tikhanovskaya Beyond the borders of Belarus, it is she who embodies the democratic opposition to the regime since the falsified presidential election on August 9.

Resistance even in exile

Tikhanovskaya took over the candidacy of her husband, the imprisoned blogger and dissident Siarhei Tsikhanouski. He is still detained. Two days after the announcement of the presidential results, she was pushed out of the country. From Lithuania where she found refuge, she formed a coordinating council. Its members were, one by one, in turn, pushed into exile.

A prize for brave women

The prize doesn't just reward her. But these " brave women » as the President of the European Parliament described them. All at the initiative of creating the Coordination Council. There is thus Svetlana Alexyevich (Nobel Prize for Literature 2015), Maryia Kalesnikava (musician, political activist), Volha Kavalkova (member of the Coordinating Council) and Veranika Tsapkala (business manager and political activist whose husband had to flee with his two children for wanting to run for president).

…and to political figures in prison or in exile

The prize also associates political and civil society personalities, in prison or in exile: Siarhei Tsikhanouski (Svetlana Tikhanovskaya's husband), Ales Bialiatsky (former candidate for the Sakharov Prize and the Nobel Peace Prize), Siarhei Dyleuski (head of the strike committee of the Minsk tractor plant), Stsiapan Putsila (founder of NEXTA, a channel for sharing information, photos and videos on protests and police repression) and Mikola Statkevich (politician).

More than ten weeks of unfailing mobilization.

For more than ten weeks now, the population, women in the lead, have taken to the streets on Sundays, strikes have been organized. Despite constant repression, police violence, and legal proceedings against politicians, journalists, activists, demonstrators. « Belarus has woken up. We are no longer the opposition. We are the majority. The peaceful revolution is underway ", has warned Tikhanovskaïa during a video-conference exchange at the end of August with MEPs, where she demanded the right to self-determination of the Belarusian people.

(Emmanuelle Stoesser)

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The other finalists 

The Archbishop of Mosul (Iraq), Najeeb Moussa Michaeel (by the nationalist group ID).

Human and environmental rights defenders from Guapinol in Honduras, including Berta Caceres (deceased) (by the Greens).

Polish LGBTI activists, founders of the 'Atlas of Hate' website.

Last year, Uighur economist Ilham Tohti, imprisoned for defending the rights of his minority, received the 2019 prize.

Emmanuelle Stroesser

A journalist for magazines and the press, Emmanuelle specializes in humanitarian issues, development, asylum and migration and human rights.