After the presidential elections of August 9, 2020, mass protests began in Belarus, followed swiftly by several days of police brutality and the torture of detained protesters and random individuals. On August 12, a small group of Belarusian women decided to go out into the streets to express support for the victims and to demand an end to the violence. A Telegram channel entitled “Women of Belarus” drew more than ten thousand subscribers in a single morning. The administrators of the channel have admitted that they hadn’t expected their movement to grow so rapidly and to capture such a massive following. As a result, several thousand Belarusian women went out into the streets that morning to stand in chains of solidarity, dressed in white and holding flowers in their hands.
This was one of the key moments of the Belarusian protests. After several days of unprecedented violence and a three-day lockdown (with the Internet shut down throughout the country) women’s chains of solidarity became a breath of fresh air, helping to guide the protest onto a peaceful course and give hope to Belarusians.
Since then, women’s chains of solidarity have become more widespread and have been held throughout the country for about a month. The women’s protests initially gathered on Saturdays and, in the early days, riot police did not interfere. But as the number of protesters grew each week and the protests showed a real potential for growing into a larger movement, authorities decided to suppress the women’s Saturday marches as well. After that, several hundred participants were detained during women’s peaceful actions.
For the past five months, five Belarusian photographers – Nadia Buzhan, Darya Burakina, Iryna Arakhouskaya, Volha Shukaila, and Viyaleta Sauchyts – have been capturing the protests throughout Belarus. The so-called women’s marches steered the protests onto a peaceful course and shaped the agenda of the Belarusian revolution. It became a nonviolent resistance – a modern form of protest in 21st century Belarus.
Women became the symbol of such protests in Belarus, fighting courageously against the patriarchal government. Our photographers have thoroughly documented these events, also focusing on their visual expressiveness. This exhibition shows the transformation of the protest – from chains of solidarity and women’s marches, to the brutal suppression of the demonstrations, to solo marches around the city led by women holding flowers.
Text: Julia Vauchok / SHKLO