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«Salidarnast» leader speaks about repression in Belarus at Stavanger conference

Updated: Dec 14, 2023

Salidarnast e.V. leader Lizaveta Merliak delivered an important address at the «IE&FLT» conference in Stavanger, Norway, which brought together 350 local union leaders from various sectors, from chemists to oil workers.

Salidarnast e.V. leader Lizaveta Merliak // photo - Egil Brandsøy
Salidarnast e.V. leader Lizaveta Merliak // photo - Egil Brandsøy

The name of the conference, Styrke, emphasizes building the power of activists to work effectively. The head of Salidarnast e.V. shared the dramatic situation in Belarus after the elimination of all democratic trade unions in July 2022.

In her speech, she noted that Belarus has become a country without trade unions, and emphasized that the state continues its brutal repression of civil society. Trade union activists were imprisoned, sentenced to long prison terms. Among them are prominent personalities, including the chairman of the Belarusian Congress of Democratic Trade Unions (BKDP), Aliaksandr Yarashuk. It is important to note that among the prisoners there are women trade unionists, as well as elderly people.

- In nowadays Belarus workers who had been in the ranks of independent unions are being laid off, their contracts are not renewed. Recently there were noticeably many arrests at workplaces, when the police would handcuff workers and take them away. Of course, in such circumstances the remaining activists cannot act freely under the threat of being prosecuted, - she said in her speech.

Lizaveta stressed that political prisoners are labeled as extremists and terrorists and subjected to cruel torture and forced labor. In the light of such events, she spoke about the activities of Salidarnast e.V., an association of trade union activists forced to leave Belarus. They organize campaigns for the release of prisoners and support the Belarusian trade union agenda at the international level.

Concluding her speech, Lizaveta Merliak expressed her belief in the need for global cooperation between workers, employers and governments to pursuade Belarus to respect the freedom of association. She emphasized that the release of political prisoners should be a precondition for any dialogue. And, quoting Dan Gallin, she reminded that the struggle for freedom and justice requires sustained effort and unity.

This vivid speech was an important step in drawing attention to the tragic events in Belarus and supporting the struggle for trade union freedom in the country.

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