English PEN joins sister centres across the globe in calling for an end to the crackdown on those taking part in peaceful protests in Belarus, including the many writers, artists, and cultural workers who have been persecuted in retaliation for speaking out.
Over the six months since the rigged election of August 2020, thousands of people have taken to the streets of Belarus in peaceful protest. Hundreds have been detained, many more have been beaten by police and others have lost their livelihoods for taking part. Writers, artists, musicians, and performers have played an important role in the protests, using their art as cultural resistance to the oppression. They have staged theatrical and street performances, held public readings, written poetry, or simply lent their public support to and taken part in the protests.
For this, they have suffered terrible consequences. Between August and December 2020, according to a recent PEN Belarus report, over 590 writers and artists have been persecuted, with over 230 detained and many suffering beatings and torture. Others have been attacked in the streets by police and pro-government supporters, leading in one case to a tragic death, that of artist Roman Bondarenko. Others have found themselves forced to resign or dismissed from their jobs, losing contracts, and having performances and readings cancelled because of their engagement in the opposition protests. Their persecution continues today.
The scale of the repression against the cultural sector, alongside that of many others from across civil society and the media who also took part in mass protests, is unprecedented in the recent history of Belarus. PEN International and its member Centres are dismayed to see the perpetuation of the oppression of writers and artists who stand up for the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful protest.
We call on the Belarusian authorities for an immediate halt to the abuse of fundamental rights of all those who speak out. We also appeal to governments worldwide to strongly condemn and demand an end to attacks against writers, artists, and cultural workers in clear retaliation for their attempts to raise their concerns and combat injustice.
PEN Belgium – Flanders
PEN Belgium – French Speaking
Cuban Writers in Exile PEN Centre
Ghana PEN Centre
Independent Chinese PEN Centre
Iranian PEN Centre in Exile
Irish PEN/PEN na hÉireann
PEN Club Liechtenstein
NZSA Te Puni Kaituhi o Aoteroa (PEN New Zealand)
Polish PEN Club
Romanian PEN Centre
San Miguel PEN
Serbian PEN Centre
Suisse Romand PEN Centre
Vietnamese Abroad PEN Centre
Join us in standing in solidarity with colleagues at PEN Belarus
In spite of the risks to their safety and liberty, PEN Belarus continue to work tirelessly, monitoring attacks on writers and artists and sharing information about developments on the ground with sister PEN centres and the international community.
Please consider sending them a message of support as part of our PENWrites campaign via the form below.