Women in Belarus are forming ‘solidarity chains’ to protest police brutality after government crackdowns on demonstrations in the former Soviet country.
It comes after president Alexander Lukashenko claimed a landslide victory in an election, the results of which have been disputed. The 65-year-old has been president since 1994 and is dubbed “Europe’s last dictator”. His opposition, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, has fled to Lithuania after stating that she does not recognise the results of the election. Both the US and EU have called the results neither free nor fair.
Since the election on 9 August, protests have broken out across Belarus with violent clashes between demonstrators and police. Thousands are said to been injured, 6,700 have been detained by police and two people have confirmed to have died. Police have also admitted using live rounds on protesters, as per The Guardian.
Now, women in Belarus are making a statement by taking to the streets wearing white dresses and waving flowers.
In cities like Grodno, Baranavichy, Zhodzina and the capital, Minsk, hundreds of women were captured on camera linking arms. Joining them was Maria Kolesnikova, who was pictured holding a bunch of flowers. Kolesnikova was one of three women who led efforts to oust Lukashenko, alongside Veronika Tsepkalo and Svetlana Tikhanovskaya. Tsepkalo also fled the country.
The significance of women leading the opposition has not gone unnoticed.
The protests against Lukashenko have continued on Thursday, with workers and medics staging organised strikes and walkouts across the country. According the BBC, Lukashenko has branded his own people "sheep" and claimed that they are being controlled from abroad.