Prisons, in which currently the opponents of the regime in Belarus serve their sentences, are all the same. Their main aim is not rehabilitation but to break people. Officers working in these institutions have almost unlimited power – says to Palitviazni.info, Franak Viachorka, the first Belarusian citizen forcibly conscripted into the army for political reasons.
Franak Vyachorka: The officers receive specific authorization to perform any actions. And these are, among others: breaking resistant prisoners, bribery, blackmail. Using proven methods, not only those from the time of Stalin, but also by putting pressure on the relatives of prisoners. They tried to break me by exerting pressure on my family and loved ones. They did not recruit me directly, but repeatedly tried to influence my girlfriend and her parents. I have often thought to give up the fight, the situation seemed hopeless. They recruited my friends. In the army, the other soldiers were often explicitly forbidden to talk to me. And those who did talk to me sometimes, were punished. At night officers literally knocked the contacts “with dissident” out of their heads. My experiences as a prisoner are similar to those described by Dzmitrij Dashkievich, Andrej Sannikou and Ales Mikhalevich. These prisons are at the core of regime. They use all the methods and forms of repression. In everyday life, you never notice, but in the military, it was a terribly noticeable, due to the fact that all these activities were focused in one place and for 6 months I was under constant pressure. This significantly weakened my health and mental state. And what can be said about people who are for years isolated in prisons, held in solitary confinement. The mere thought of it is terrifying. We definitely underestimate the repressive measures that are created by the system. But at the same time the system underestimates the idealism of the people, who cannot be bought, intimidated or broken. In the army, I had one rule – “do not believe, do not be afraid, do not ask.” I kept repeating it to myself and that is probably why I was able to withstand it all.
– The pressure is primarily exerted on young people who belong to oppositional organizations and want to actively engage for the good of their country. Finally, the state apparatus, in the fight with different views, destroys all attempts to take any initiatives. To what might it lead?
Franak Viachorka: Youth has always been and is active. Therefore, the authorities appear willing to neutralize this group and those among them who have the potential to lead others. It may be noted that in recent years there was not established a single new youth organization. And those that are still existing, are still operated by the same names and the same faces. During the crisis in 2011, it was tried to create a new movement. However, this resulted in arrests and attempts to conduct searches in homes of young people organizing these associations. I am sure, however, that in the near future the authorities will lose the control over the situation in the country. This is due to the tempestuousness among ordinary people. I see that the old distinction between older and younger generations have blurred, young people used to opt for a change, and older for stabilization. Today, young people are becoming a driving force for change, but only with the help of older generation, which possess wisdom, the country will change .
– And what do you think will be the sign of changes taking place in the country? When the regime will stop intimidating the society?
Franak Viachorka: It seems to me that society is ruled not only by fear, but by something much worse – indifference. And it must be overcome. Only when the fate of political prisoners cease to be indifferent to people,it will be the first step towards change. The alternative is essential. Not only personal, but also ideological. An alternative which might become something closer to the people than the doctrine of post-Soviet Lukashism. We need creative and new ideas for the society. And one more important thing – there is need for solidarity, both within the country and outside. For example, I have met with my colleagues from army and they did not see the need to go to Ploshcha, due to a lack of confidence in support from abroad -“because we are not important to anyone there.” People feel abandoned by the West and Europe. And it must be changed, because Europe’s help is very much needed.
– At the same time, the European Union and the West declare solidarity with Belarus. At the political level, however, we dela with the “trade” in prisoners of conscience. How can this be changed and whether or not we should say that we have in Belarus “former political prisoners” since the process of rehabilitation is blocked by the authorities?
Franak Viachorka: With this statement I disagree. All in all, the whole country is being held hostage. The Hostage of stagnation, unpredictable actions and steps taken by one man. People who are supposedly released, are not free even after being released from prison. They are chained by different legal requirements, they are harassed by the police, their lives are controlled. This is happening today with Pavel Vinogradov, with Dzmitry Dashkievich and Irina Khalip. I think that even those forced to emigrate are not fully free, because they are still tied with Belarus. They still have some commitments, loved ones in the country. Therefore, they cannot say that they are completely free. There will be freedom in Belarus when we get rid of fear. Fear of parents of children who are educated and brought up in their own language. Similarly, the fear of expressing one’s views freely and being punished when the KGB learns about it. The freedom will come when one will not be required to pay a hundred dollars for allowance to go abroad. And then there will be no political prisoners in Belarus.