21 May 2024, Tuesday, 23:49
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9
Simple Moves
Iryna Khalip

Don't judge. Stop the boor.

Imagine that your neighbour is being robbed in front of you. And you know the robber - he is a rich guy from the house across the street. The whole neighbourhood knows him: he is rude, swears, bullies children, kicks dogs and tortures cats, urinates in the children's sandbox. And you write a statement about the crime committed, asking for your neighbour's wallet to be returned and for the culprit to be punished. You do not send this statement to the police, but to the boor himself. You put it in the mailbox and wait.

Meanwhile, he walks around laughing. After a while you write to him again and again. Then you write again. Then your letter won't fit in the full mailbox because everyone else is writing and demanding that you behave. But he doesn't even look in the box. He knows that no one expects him to reply. And he continues to behave the same way. And you and your neighbours throw up your hands and wonder: we have wasted so much paper. We have found such persuasive words, why doesn't he respond in some way? He must!

This is what the UN looks like - like naive neighbours writing letters to an intruder. I read the statement from the UN Human Rights Office: "The decree banning the issuance or renewal of passports abroad violates the rights of thousands of Belarusians living in exile, including their freedom of movement. People should not be forced to return and risk persecution. We call for the decree to be revised in line with international standards. These seem to be the right words, but they are addressed to Lukashenka. He is being asked to 'reconsider'.

He may reconsider. He'll think: yes, it's a bit lax if the response is so poor. I must come up with something else to get everyone excited. For example, putting snipers on the border to shoot the few returnees. Or to force them to register their property with Lukashenka's administration in exchange for a new passport. Or, more generally, to issue passports only to those who join Belaya Rus and give an interview to Azaronak. And not only to those who have left, but also to those who are in the country. Parents, do you want to make a passport for your three-year-old child? Have him recite a patriotic poem at the Partizansky district festival and then apply. It is even easier for schoolchildren: October, pioneers, BRYU members will have passports, and the rest will have school certificates. And then it will be even easier: those who haven't joined will live without passports at all, like collective farmers in the USSR until the 1970s, and work for labour days. Lukashenka will do it. And a dozen more resolutions expressing deep concern and calling for "reconsideration" will be written, published and distributed in the form of press releases. In fact, the only thing the civilised world can do now (and not just now, but before) about Lukashenka is to react quickly to each new perversion, not with resolutions, but with actions. This seems complicated - bureaucratic apparatuses are always clumsy and creaky - but only at first glance. Let's remember that in 2020, when the world was horrified by the despotism in Belarus, Poland simply opened its borders to Belarusians, without any unnecessary declarations, resolutions or condemnations. There is a pandemic, the world is closed, all countries have closed themselves off from each other and follow the WHO recommendations, but Poland opens the border with Belarus and tens of thousands of people are saved thanks to this simple action.

And now the moment has come for a simple and quick decision. Or several decisions. To recognise Belarusian passports valid on the territory of other states, regardless of the period of validity. To issue travel documents to Belarusians regardless of their residence permits. Open special centres for Belarusian documents in several states and allow Belarusians to apply there regardless of their current place of residence. Immediately negotiate with EU candidate countries - from Georgia to Turkey and Serbia - and develop a similar procedure for Belarusians living in these countries. To put representatives of Belarusian state companies in similar conditions - not to provide them with a single necessary document in their countries of residence.

Nothing. Attempts to shame Lukashenka and call him to account are always a waste of time. And the Belarusians are running out of time. Only not everyone has realised it yet. I'm not talking about passports, by the way.

Iryna Khalip, especially for Charter97.org

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