Video Appeal by Veronica Tsepkalo

Dear friends,
My name is Veronica Tsepkalo and I am from Belarus.
As you may be aware, presidential elections took place in Belarus in Summer, 2020.In the beginning of the campaign three strong opposition candidates were denied the right to register. Two of them are still in prison and the third had to flee the country due to false criminal charges. This is when I along with Maria Kolesnikova, representative of another potential candidate, gave our support to the only opposition candidate to be registered, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya.The elections took place on 9th August, 2020. For the sixth time over the past 26 years, the President of Belarus once again falsified the elections and declared himself President. This sparked the start of the revolution in Belarus - the first ever revolution with a female face.The level of resistance to election results is unprecedented in the postwar period, especially on the part of women, who stood up for and protected their men.  It is hard to believe that in the 21st Century in a European country, women are being beaten, tortured, raped, and yet still do not give up their fight for democracy. It has been five months since the people of Belarus took to the streets in peaceful protest against these fraudulent elections. They condemned the brutality and violation of the Constitution and basic human rights. In order to convey the scale of the protest, as of today, 32, 000 people have been arrested and jailed which is an absolute record for any European country since WWII.
We are all aware that women are particularly vulnerable. The regime does not care who you are, your gender or age. They detain ordinary women and also high-profile women such as my colleague and friend Maria Kolesnikova. Among those arrested are political and human rights activists, a professional basketball player, a former Miss Belarus, foreign citizens with Belarusian roots, and many others. Women in prison are held in intolerable and unsanitary conditions with once a week cold shower, no working toilet and no basic hygiene. Many women are crammed together in one cell despite the severe COVID situation in the country. We have testimonies from  women who were put in special cells where they were forced to stand upright as there was no room to sit or lie down. This is genuine torture aimed at breaking people in order to force them to give up their fight and stop the protests. There are many accounts from women of how they were raped, humiliated and beaten up by the regime's forces. We started to gather these testimonies in order to share them with the international community, so that this black chapter in the history of Belarus will never be forgotten.We realized we have to speak out as we want to ensure that the infringement of women's rights going on in Belarus right now is known about throughout Europe.It is for this reason that we have established the Belarus Women’s Foundation  to provide help to those women who have suffered at the hands of the regime, to support those who have fought, spoken up and faced repression as a result. The former President has insulted Belarusian women for many years describing us in such vile terms as 'pigs', 'sheep', 'rats', and 'prostitutes'. He has stated that the Constitution is not meant for women and we are going to change this! The women of Belarus have been the epitome (эпИтоми) of  courage, dedication to democratic principles and the fight for human rights.
Our work will not cease when the regime falls. We will continue to support women's active involvement in politics and business by focusing on their personal and professional development, We need funds to make this happen, so that we can provide support for women both in the immediate term and also for their future development going forward. Please help the women of Belarus! If you help us today, tomorrow we will help you. Thank you for your support!



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