Journeys Festival International are partners and friends of Belarus Free Theatre. The artistic directors both seek political asylum in the UK and work via Skype with the company who are still based in Belarus, the last dictatorship in Europe.
We recieved this message from Belarus Free Theatre:
"On Saturday 5 members of Belarus Free Theatre were arrested in Belarus as part of a major clampdown on peaceful human rights protests in Minsk. Our ensemble members had been taking part in the Freedom Day protests against a new tax on the unemployed in Belarus, which also called for the resignation of dictator for the last 23 years, Alexander Lukashenko.
4 have been released, but one – Siarhei Kvachonak – is still imprisoned and this morning, has been sentenced to 10 days in prison on a charge of shouting, using strong language and hooliganism, a sentence which might be extended. Photo of him being arrested is attached.
Another actress, Yana Rusakevich, was found in a hospital yesterday with a severe concussion and a temporal bone fracture. Yana has been with the company since its founding in 2005.
Video footage of the violent arrests of our Stage Manager, Svetlana Sugako, and one of our students, can be seen in this report from the BBC: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-39393351
The streets were cleared of protestors with military force and the internet was shut down in a bid to stop the movement.
Over the last few days almost 1,000 people have been arrested. These include 35 journalists and 60 staff members of the human rights organisation Viasna.
Our Artistic Director Natalia Kaliada has been speaking to the media about what has happened. She's quoted in this article from the Guardian saying: “It’s a strategy of arrests and clearing the streets and blocking the internet that they think will spook people, but people are very angry. All these arrests and splitting up the crowds might make things a little quieter in Minsk, but now these protests are happening all over Belarus. This is the worst crackdown over the last seven years, but it would have been the biggest protest. People don’t care, they want an end to this dictator. They say ‘basta’ – enough.”
Both Siarhei and Yana were due to perform in our underground space in Minsk last night. We were determined that our work would not be stopped and so a performance of a different production, Discover Love, went ahead, which was dedicated to all those caught up in the violence.
I’m contacting to ask you, as fellow artists, to stand in solidarity with our company members in Belarus and to ask you to share information about what is happening in Belarus. It’s really important for us to make as much noise as possible and let the Belarusian authorities know that the international community is watching.
Please feel free share the images and links included in this email and you can also connect with our social media channels, which have information and updates:
BBC News: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-39393351