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Godfather

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Godfather
IRYNA KHALIP
PHOTO: NASHA NIVA

You say you are the godfather of a political prisoner, so you go to our hell.

Do you know who was the most famous political prisoner in Europe after Square 2010? Not Uladzimir Niakliaeu, not Mikalai Statkevich, not Andrei Sannikau. The most famous Belarusian prisoner of conscience was Dzmitry Bandarenka. His symbolic godfather was MEP Marek Migalski.

Symbolic godfathers from among Western parliamentarians is a wonderful initiative of the German-Swiss human rights organisation Libereco - Partnership for Human Rights. It was launched just after 19 December 2010, when hundreds of people were thrown into prison and dozens were sentenced to prison terms. The Polish MP Marek Migalski took over the "patronage" from Dzmitry Bandarenka. According to the rules of the genre, the next words are "and then it started..." Because it really started.

Dzmitry was ill. He was about to undergo a complex operation on his spine, on which depended not only his ability to move properly, but also his life. For three months the KGB prison refused to take him to see a neurologist. Migalski cried out to the world - in interviews, in every speech he made at meetings of the European Parliament and the Polish Sejm. He regularly contacted Dzmitry's family - his wife and daughter - and told them what he had done and what he planned to do next. He flooded the DIN, the Ministry of the Interior and other authorities with statements, which he duplicated in the press. Probably every European politician knew about Bandarenka's health. And they joined Migalski - they started talking about the same thing in their parliaments.

Marek fought for Bandarenka as desperately as Dzmitry's wife Olga and daughter Iulia. He set up a website to collect signatures for Dzmitry's release. In August 2011, Migalski tried to come to Belarus and tried to get into Bandarenka's colony, but the regime refused to let him enter as has happened many times. The MEP nominated Dzmitry Bandarenka for the Sakharov Prize, which drew even more attention to Dzmitry's condition and the situation in Belarus. And even though in 2011 the European Parliament Prize was awarded to the activists of the Arab Spring, thanks to Marek Migalski's efforts the situation in Belarus did not fade into the background of the East, which was burning with revolutions. Perhaps it was also thanks to him that Dzmitry stayed alive and did not become an invalid.

Marek Migalski's work was not a feat or something special - he simply did what a symbolic godfather of a Belarusian political prisoner should do.

Today there are thousands of political prisoners in Belarus. It's clear that there are not enough MPs for all the prisoners, but today more than 400 parliamentarians from different European countries have become symbolic sponsors of Belarusian political prisoners. Four hundred European parliamentarians - aren't they a force? They are. And when they speak out together, when they shout out the names of their godparents, everyone will hear.

But the term "symbolic godfather" has itself become symbolic. There are hundreds of political prisoners whose names are not known even in Belarus, let alone in the world. At the same time, they have these symbolic godfathers. A photo with a piece of paper with the inscription "#WeStandBYyou" for the Libereco website, their own social networks and lines in their CVs is of course also very important and touching. Any manifestation of attention to Belarusian political prisoners always causes gratitude. But you can also be photographed with a leaf without any obligation. And if you call yourself a godfather, come to our hell.

Pile up the demands of all the state authorities. Threaten them with heavenly punishment. Heavenly punishment won't work 99% of the time, but in one case it might. Some prosecutor will suddenly realise that your little blood child wants to study in Europe and will fulfil his supervisory duties just in case. Demand access to political prisoners for lawyers, diplomats, the Red Cross. Demand meetings with Belarusian officials. Spam from the heart. This kind of noise may seem pointless, but it could save someone's life.

Don't misunderstand me: I am eternally grateful to anyone who at least utters the word "Belarus" against the backdrop of a world on fire. But I have no doubt that 400 European parliamentarians, united by an initiative, can do much more.

Especially since they were not sent to this initiative by the verdict of some judge Katser.

Iryna Khalip, especially for Charter97.org

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