The workers who will have nothing to support their families will join the protests.
Coordinator of the “European Belaruis” civil campaign Yauhen Afnahel said this in an interview to Charter97.org.
- How was your yet another 15-day arrest? How do you feel?
- I’m okay, not better but not worse than after all the previous arrests. As for these 15 days, I would like to mention the same facts that other activists talked about. The inmates were’t taken for a walk every day, and there were 5-6 people sometimes in a cell which admits 4. The police confiscated pens and notebooks, not just ordinary guards, but the bosses.
- Prison is often a good cross-section of the moods in a society: how did people in the cell assess the situation in the country?
- During the arrest, more than 15 people passed through my cell. They were not bums, but ordinary citizens of Minsk, detained for catching sight of the police in a state of intoxication. All of them in one way or other experienced lawlessness and infringements during detentions and courts. During the trials of opposition activists, the authorities are trying to create at least an appearance of legality. The ordinary people’s trials usually last for a couple of minutes - a person calls their name, and the judge tells the amount of the fine or the term of the arrest. No one remembers witnesses, studying case materials and other legal formalities. It is clear that with this attitude, there can be no supporters of the authorities among the prisoners.
Almost always, oppositionists tell the inmates about how important it is to resist the lawlessness of the police and officials, at least to write complaints or to report to the media about their illegal actions, during the arrests. This time I managed to demonstrate that it works.
The whole prison was discussing the information on how a doctor, replying to the plea of one of the inmates to disinfect her mattress, offered to “pour [her] with gasoline and burn down”.
Soon after that case, someone passed a newspaper to our cell, in which there was an interview with Uladzimir Niakliaeu, who served a 5-day arrest. He told this story. The next day, on May 16, there was an overall check of the whole prison since early morning. It lasted for 3 hours. For the first time in my arrest, a doctor took rounds in all the cells, asking the inmates about their health condition. They gave us soap, linen, and the disinfecting powder, which many inmates asked for several days. After that, the shiftman took a round, asking in an extremely polite way who was discontent with what, whether there were any claims. In the evening, one of the guards said that the reason for the check was that “the oppositionists distribute some bad rumours”.
- Activists, whose youth came to the late 1990's - early 2000's, remember you as a reliable, inflexible, confident person who believed in victory. You are, let us say, back "in the ranks." What has changed in Belarus? How is the fight different from the one that was 10 years ago?
- The main difference is that we used to take on to the street actions not really expecting that they would bring change. For 20 years there were only a few moments when you could count on a serious result. We came out because it was necessary to protest against falsifications of the "elections", to seek the release of political prisoners, to save the honor of the people and the country.
Now the situation is completely different. In the spring of 2017 the people, who were silent and afraid, believed in the promises of the authorities throughout all these years, turned to street protests. Lukashenka relied on them all the time of his rule, for them the ideologists of the regime came up with the notorious "goblet and cracklings" as a measure of well-being and "stability", as an ideal of the state system. But today the authorities cannot provide any of this. There is no money for this and there is no place to take it. That is why the popular protest caused such inadequate reaction of the authorities. There are no other tools left for Lukashenka, except for repression. But the tool, which at the very least worked against the "geeks" - oppositionists, will not work against the hard workers, who have to feed the family for some Bn 200 of wages.
- What to expect next? Statkevich says the street protests will explode with more vigor. Do you agree with him?
- None of the problems that triggered the protests this spring was solved. Salaries are falling, prices are rising. The retirement age will continue to rise. Nobody is going to abolish illegal taxes and fees. In the coming months, these problems will worsen, new ones will be added to them. Unprofitable enterprises will be closed, there will be more unemployed, corruption and crime will increase. Protests, perhaps, will cease for a month or two, but by autumn they will burst with renewed vigor.
A classic revolutionary situation has developed in Belarus. One of its elements - the people who hate their superiors and demand changes - has been formed for a long time. Another - a mediocre power that does not know how to run the country - has finally manifested itself in the recent years. Do not forget about the third, key element - a significant increase in the activity of the people and their determination to fight and seek fulfillment of their demands.
It is necessary to get prepared for changes and prepare them. Activists should join resistance, unite around real leaders of protest, become such leaders themselves.
Businessmen and entrepreneurs should support the resistance financially, help with equipment; workers and students should create strike committees at enterprises and universities; bloggers and journalists - write about the problems that the country faces, help to coordinate the protests; officials and security officers who have kept honor and sense and are aware of their responsibility for the country - sit down at a round table with the opposition and negotiate a peaceful change of power.