Protesting the Belarusian Dictator

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Pikist

The protestors rallying together in Minsk, Belarus, against Alexander Lukashenko.

Natasha Kuneff, Reporter

When summer came to Belarus, butterflies awakened, and crops matured. Every segment of verdant grass was adorned with flowers, like the sprinkles on a cake. And the elderly sat on benches, greeting the passing children. It was peaceful and quiet, nothing particularly notable befalling this country since the second world war. But this pandemic made the people push for change.

Alyaksandr Lukashenka, Europe’s last dictator, has been president for 26 years. He changed the constitution to set no term limits — an amendment he abused. And once the coronavirus reached Belarus, he did anything to keep order.

The people were told to go back to their farms, and if someone died in the hospital, the cause was written off as either heart disease or diabetes; coronavirus being the secondary reason. Once this was discovered, people checked the numbers. More citizens died during the past months than in five years.

With the elections coming up, the civilians were planning to elect somebody new. It did not go as planned, with Lukashenka claiming eighty percent of the voters chose him. Knowing how many voted for change, people grew skeptical, and suspicions about the truth arose. And once the one running against Lukashenka was put in jail, the population was pushed to act.

Protests covered the streets. The first few days were the worst; those who attended the peaceful demonstrations were hauled to jail and beaten. High fines topped the charges. Those who didn’t get caught were not guaranteed safety — rubber bullets and torrents of water hit the civilians. From the speed of the pellets, the projectiles tore and cut into the skin. If a person dared walk home, or even to the store, there was no telling if they’d get in trouble.

Lukashenka also found calling his citizens donkeys, rats, and addicts a good idea.

Nevertheless, Belarusians didn’t let that stop them. Hundreds of women left their homes draped in white, bouquets tight in their grip. Holding the flowers above their heads, they protested the brutality of those under Lukashenka’s command. Later, university students led demonstrations, singing folk-songs along the way.

Throughout this time, Lukashenka disrupted internet connections. He also censored and silenced journalists, and some were even deported. On his birthday, Putin invited him to Russia. He gifted Lukashenko presents, one consisting of tanks. For those few days, contact to the outside world was shut off. The outward violence quelled, but this novel present worried the people. Nobody was wounded, but the military attempted to block paths in hopes the protesters would try to pass them. A trap they didn’t fall for — opting to turn around and find a free road.

Green shifts into yellow, orange, red, purple, and brown. The ripened crops are picked for the selling; there are always farmers outside with their harvest if some wish for fresh produce. The times are uncertain, and the people in Belarus are struggling to fight. Alyaksandr Lukashenka does not care how long he has to wait or how others feel about him. But as the pointed leaves quiver, shake, and fall, perhaps when the coldest of months guides the people together for warmth, he will understand and repent.