The Belarusian opposition, Sakharov Prize 2020

(B2) The peaceful protest and the courage of a people against the power of a regime and of a man, the Belarusian Alexander Lukashenko, is put to 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 " Europe's last dictator as one of the most active MEPs on this issue, the Lithuanian Petras Austrevicius, calls him. Since September, the European Parliament has relayed the testimonies of activists, journalists, citizens persecuted, brutalized, tortured by the police of the Lukashenko regime. He again adopted last week, 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, the end of police brutality and violence against demonstrators. The announcement Thursday noon (22.10) by David Sassoli, its president, that the 2020 Sakharov Prize went to this peaceful opposition therefore came as no surprise to anyone.

… and parliamentary diplomacy 

The Sakahrov Prize – named after the physicist and Soviet 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 single out the opposition to the 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 skewed presidential election on August 9.

Resistance even in exile

Tikhanovskaïa took over the candidacy of her husband, the blogger and dissident Siarhei Tsikhanouski, imprisoned. 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 set up a coordination council. Its members were, one by one, in turn, driven into exile.

A prize for brave women

The prize does not reward her. But these " brave women as the President of the European Parliament described them. All on the initiative of the creation of the Coordinating 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 (entrepreneur 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 news, photos and videos about 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 organised. 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 an exchange by videoconference, 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.