Liberal Youth’s Teddy Bear Campaign for Belarus

Liberal Youth’s Teddy Bear Campaign for Belarus

Using teddy bears, Liberal Youth has kickstarted a campaign raising awareness of Europe’s Last Dictatorship.

Alexender Lukashenka, President of Belarus, has become known as ‘Europe’s last dictator’. Lukashenka has now turned his authoritarian regime on soft toys.

In August, two journalists were arrested in Belarus for protesting against the regime by taking a photo of themselves with a soft toy. Each teddy bear was one of hundreds that had been parachuted by a Swedish PR firm over Minsk, each carrying messages about democracy in an attempt to break through the media censorship imposed by the regime. The stunt also led Lukashenka to sack two of his top military officials; perhaps the first time in history that teddy bears have defeated generals.

Since then Lukashenka has asked all Swedish Diplomats to leave the country, sparking a diplomatic dispute over the issue.

In reaction to this, Liberal Youth launched Bears for Belarus, an awareness and solidarity campaign that revolves around people sending in pictures with a soft toy.

Within 2 weeks it has already had over 17,000 hits, with over 3,000 coming from inside Belarus itself. It has also gathered the support of several Lib Dem MPs including Jo Swinson, Nick Clegg’s Private Parliamentary Secretary, and Alistair Carmichael, the Government’s Deputy Chief Whip, and leading MEP Sir Graham Watson.

Tom Wood, Chair of Liberal Youth, said:

“I’m very pleased with the way that the campaign has taken off. The fight to depose Europe’s Last Dictator will continue, but Liberal Youth has raised awareness of the situation in Belarus – and this can only be good news

“These are the kind of actions we sadly expect from Lukashenka. His police have been reported to beat and arrest protesters, his  elections fall far short of international democratic standards, whilst the media is censored to hide these violations of human rights. Still Belarus imprisons and reportedly tortures political prisoners, including young campaigners for democracy”

Naomi Ichihara Røkkum, Secretary General of the International Federation of Liberal Youth (IFLRY) said:

“Supporting civil rights for Belarusians has been an important topic for IFLRY, and we therefore strongly supports this great initiative by the Liberal Youth (UK). IFLRY urges our members and friends to take part in this campaign to show solidarity with all the human rights defenders in Belarus”

The campaign has become an international one, with individuals from across the world taking part. To show your solidarity with the arrested journalists, and pro-democracy campaigners in Belarus, send in a photo of yourself with a teddy bear (or otehr soft toy) to harriet.ainscough (at) liberalyouth.org, or sam.fisk (at) liberalyouth.org.

The campaign website can be found here: http://bearsforbelarus.wordpress.com/



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