August 9, 2021, marks one year since the infamous 2020 presidential election, which became a turning point in Belarusian history. Belarusians around the world commemorate the beginning of the peaceful pro-democracy movement it sparked. One year ago today, millions of brave Belarusians chose to stand up to a dictatorship and defend democracy in the voting booths across the country and elect Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya as the next president of Belarus. Hundreds of thousands then took to the streets to protect their votes, despite the prospect of getting jailed, tortured, or even murdered.
We remember victims of the brutal crackdown in the immediate aftermath of the election and the escalating wave of repressions that followed. Thousands of Belarusians have gone through the dehumanizing courts and penitentiary systems. Thousands were forced to flee the country. Many lost their livelihoods or chance of education due to politically motivated firings and expulsions. Aliaksandr Taraikouski, Aliaksandr Vikhor, Henadz Shutau, Raman Bandarenka, Vitold Ashurak, and the most recent victim of the regime, Vital Shyshou, will never see the independent and democratic Belarus they dreamed about and fought for. Shyshou’s horrifying death in Kyiv, Ukraine, reminds us that the regime is as bloodthirsty as ever, and no Belarusian is safe anywhere as long as the dictator holds onto power. Today, our thoughts are with Belarusians who continue to stand up to the regime and demand respect for their rights and freedoms.
The Belarusian regime is at war with civil society and independent media. With over 600 political prisoners still behind bars, we ask you to take action today. On this day, we respectfully request that the members and allies of the Belarusian-American community get in touch with their elected officials. Ask them to join the Congressional and Senate Belarus Caucuses and support the pro-democracy legislation intended to promote democracy in Belarus and rehabilitate Belarusian civil society.