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On behalf of the Belarusian diaspora of Illinois, we call on the Governor of Illinois JB Pritzker and the Illinois members of the U.S. Congress to make public statements on March 25, 2021, in a show of solidarity with the Belarusian people fighting for freedom against Lukashenka’s ruthless regime and for the independence of their country. We urge the Governor of Illinois to recognize March 25, the Belarusian Independence Day, as an important date in the history of Belarus and the white-red-white flag as the symbol of Belarusian independence and sovereignty.
March 25, 1918, is the date when Belarus first declared its independence. This day has become a symbol of the Belarusian people’s resistance against the regime of Aleksandr Lukashenka, “Europe’s last dictator” who has been in power for 26 years, and against Russia’s renewed imperialist ambitions. The flag represents hopes for freedom and democracy for many Belarusians in Belarus and worldwide.
March 25 has already been declared Belarusian Independence Day in Michigan by Governor G. Mennen Williams (1957) and in Colorado by the Governor Richard Lamm of Colorado (1984). It has been recognized by Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower (1958) and George H. W. Bush (1989).
International support and solidarity are especially vital for the Belarusian people now. In August of 2020, people came out in hundreds of thousands to demand free and fair elections. The protests continued for months. The regime responded with rubber bullets, water cannons, and tear gas, along with mass repressions, detaining tens of thousands, torture in prisons, and killing at least six people. The number of political prisoners—people convicted on made-up criminal charges for political reasons currently stands at 255, and it continues to grow daily.
Belarus today is in a state of a near-complete collapse of the rule of law. Police officers called as witnesses in court, hide their faces and provide testimony under made-up names. People are routinely abducted by police in plain clothes, with no signs of identification. The freedom of speech, independent media, and journalists are under relentless attack from the regime. Simply wearing clothes that resemble the white-red-white flag colors leads to detention and 15-day sentences. The flag and the yearning for freedom and democracy it symbolizes, are considered a threat by Lukashenka’s regime. That is the same flag that marked Belarus’s independence in the early 20th century.
Belarusian Americans have united to provide help and support for the people of Belarus. We have never been more active and determined to work for change: https://youtu.be/OdLqPtCo3Rg
But we cannot do it alone. We call for the show of support from the Governor of Illinois JB Pritzker and the Illinois members of the U.S. Congress. We are confident that with the strong support and assistance of the United States and the international community, the Belarusians will prevail in their struggle with the dictatorship and achieve their sacred desire to live in a free and prosperous Republic of Belarus.