Queer activists join protests against Europe’s Last Dictator

europe's last dictator belarus
Image: @amefremova Twitter

Queer women figured prominently in a yesterday’s Women’s March calling for the resignation of President Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus. The authoritarian leader often dubbed Europe’s Last Dictator has faced protests since a rigged election in August.

Anna Debrov from Belarus’s DOTYK Festival marched in the parade along with fellow queer activists.  She proudly waved a rainbow flag and also bravely kissed her girlfriend along the route despite the avowedly homophobic nature of the country.

“LGBT people are calling for freedom. We are tired of living in a dictatorship where we simply don’t exist.”

Although Belarus decriminalised homosexuality in 1994, LGBTIQ people face vilification, harassment and violence.

Local activist Andrei Zavalei first took a rainbow flag to a protest in August.

He said then, “Until this weekend, we didn’t bring our rainbow flags to the protests. For the government, it could be used as propaganda to claim that this whole protest is organised by the west, which is against our “traditional family values’.”

Europe’s Last Dictator

Alexander Lukashenko became president of Belarus 26 years ago, following the dissolution of the Soviet Union. He then set about consolidating power. Most commentators agree that he rigged every election since.

The former state farm director and Soviet Army officer heads a repressive regime characterised by the ‘disappearance’ of opponents.

Despite sporadic protests following previous elections, 2020 has seen the most sustained opposition to the regime.

Discontent over Lushashenko’s response to the coronavirus pandemic simmered before the election. The president recommended ‘working the tractors, drinking vodka and going to saunas’ to prevent contracting COVID-19. Belarus now has one of the highest per-capita rates of the disease in Eastern Europe.

The current protests broke out after a disputed August election in which Lukashenko claimed a landslide victory with 80% of the vote.

The Women’s March

Women took a lead role in the recent election.

Lukashenko’s main rival Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, previously a stay-at-home mum, became a candidate after the regime imprisoned her husband.

She proved an excellent campaigner and afterwards exit polls indicated she won 70% of the vote.

On Tuesday, Miko Czerwinski from Amnesty International Poland spoke with Anna along with Konstantin from Belarussian queer group, New Regions.

(Video is in English)

Watch: Logan Mucha‘s incredible documentary East Bloc Love shot in Belarus in 2011. Logan filmed local LGBTIQ PRIDE activists preparing for a defiant stand against Europe’s Last Dictator.

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