Belarus has been under international spotlight ever since the long-term President Alexander Lukashenko allegedly won the disputed elections in June 2020 enraging the people of Belarus. The people, majority women, have been at the forefront of the mass political demonstrations and protests against the Lukashenko government calling for stepping down of the longest serving dictator in Europe.
Women have been leading the Belarus Revolution demanding democracy to come to the forefront. Leaders, protesters and change-bearing personas are all women who are currently in the limelight of transitionary phase of the country that is hopefully set on the path of ultimate democratic freedom.
Last week a Minsk apartment building had a projected image of opposition leader, Maria Kolesnikova. The image by Anna Redko was given look of The Motherland Calls, the famous Soviet war poster, where Kolesnikova is seen holding a torn passport. This was a reference to her latest encounter with Lukashenko’s forces at Ukraine border where they tried to deport her. Kolesnikova currently is in Minsk’s KGB prison. She is determined to oppose forced exile. That is the ultimate picture of revolutionary defiance in a country facing turmoil.
The revolution in Belarus has been led by women and also largely defined by them. Leading the demonstrations, women have been arrested and beaten up by the masked security men in green uniforms. Many have been detained.
Svetlana Tikhanovskaya was the opposition leader on ballot standing against Lukashenko. The autocratic leader allowed a woman to contest in election, thinking she wouldn’t pose any harm, and jailed or exiled all the men who intended to contest the election. Three opposition leaders – Tikhanovskaya, Kolesnikova and Veronika Tsepkalo rallied across the country before elections and gathered support for their vision of bring in the long desired political change and democracy in the country.
Lukashenko was largely cynical and rejective of women, and that enraged women even more. Kolesnikova said at her Minsk located campaign headquarters last month, “The cynicism with which the current president expressed himself about them and their role, it insulted a lot of women.”
The current momentum of protests in Belarus were facilitated and accentuated by women and it was further rejuvenated after women were inflicted with horrifying violence after Lukashenko claimed victory in elections. After days of bearing brutal attacks by the police, 250 women stood on central Minsk roadside holding white and red flowers, and police didn’t touch them. Next day there were multiple rows of women across the city. Weeks following Tikhanovskaya and Tsepkalo left Belarus and exiled fearing threat to family, and Kolesnikova became the movement’s visible face. She continued to appear in rallies until she was forcibly detained and was tried to forced into exile.
Russia is showing unwavering support to Lukashenko who is internationally not recognized as legitimate president after controversial elections. The women leaders are the face of change in Belarus. Kolesnikova said last month that the protests show that a political change is possible if demanded for, and that women can take the charge when nobody helps.