Spontaneous protests erupt throughout the country.
Several environmental protests are taking place in Belarus at the same time. Since December 25, residents of the Yakimova Sloboda, the Svetlahorsk district have held rallies caused by the constructed Chinese pulp production plant. People near Brest also demand to stop the construction of "IPower" battery plant. People from Kalodzishchy, near Minsk, hold rallies caused by tree felling near Amkodor plant.
Does the Belarusian National Congress monitor the situation with spontaneous environmental protests? The Charter97.org asked one of the BNC leaders, coordinator of the European Belarus civil campaign, Jauhen Afnahel, for comments:
- These actions, of course, are important symptoms and we follow and analyze them. First, I'd like to say that these are not single cases of spontaneous protests, but only those covered by independent journalists. I live in Kalodzishchy and I witness everything: people were resented and they protested long before the information became public.
And I can say that there are much more "flash" spots in Belarus. Those who are familiar with peculiarities of our nature know that the most dangerous fire happens on lowland moors. The earth is smoldering under the moss.
During 2017 there were lots of examples when people held spontaneous protests against construction of a harmful plant and so on.
- Why does it happen?
-The answer is simple: the authorities with their "cosmic" plans do not care about interests of ordinary people. The situation in the country is that Lukashenka and his inner circle just need money. And they will do everything to raise this "cash". They do not care either well-being of people or their health, lives and the future of their children.
We saw many examples when signed papers launched the demolition of houses, relocation of their owners from habitable places. There are dozens of such examples. But this is only the tip of the iceberg. Spontaneous protests of last weeks held in Brest, Svetlahorsk and Kalodzishchy, are small luminous spots, which became noticeable. It can be seen from the "space" as well.
In fact, the geography of discontent is even broader. If the map of spontaneous protests is compiled, it would be seen that it was a smoldering sphagnum. The picture is impressive, if you are able to see it.
The authorities missed some fine nuance, failed to feel a just-noticeable impulse. The signal, which now comes from numerous sites of spontaneous discontent, means the following: people have changed; they are ready to fight and make these "space travelers" from Drazdy come back to earth.
-Once the Chernobyl rally solidated Belarusians: the march of 1996 was one of the most massive in the history of independent Belarus. Can the issue of environmental protection unite people for raising political demands?
-The thing is that people are already united by the idea of rejection of things the authorities do. Protests of 2017 demonstrated it. Don't think that the spirit of those protests has vanished.
The situation is that the unification of people in the name of protest can suddenly burst because of any trifle. A local problem of a city or even a village can become an impulse that transforms Belarus.
The practice shows these problems cannot be effectively solved on the local level. There will be just temporary concessions and deception, as well as it once happened to Indians in order to sign disadvantageous contracts and to grab everything from them.
In 2017, I was present at several meetings of initiative groups, created during protests against construction of buildings, forest felling and so on. I'd like to point out that sometimes it was proposed to collect signatures, to adress to officials... But the practice show these addresses were only ignored. And spontaneous rallies with a blocked road were like a "cold shower". It made them sober and come back to earth. And even those who did not understand the meaning of street protests later agreed that our claims are heard only when street protests existed. The street is the only "translator" making our words clear for Lukashenka and his people.
One thing is clear: the authorities will listen to us only when they are elected. The key to any problem in Belarus - local or global one - is in fair and free elections under the international control, which is the Belarusian National Congress consistently is fighting for.
And there is one way to return the authority election principle: to demonstrate the people's will on street actions and protests. Therefore, all dissatisfied are invited to Minsk on March 25. Together we will achieve solution of problems that raise concern.