Letter in solidarity to our colleague and friend, Ales Bialiatski,
Vice-president of FIDH, imprisoned in Minsk since last August 4th
11 September 2011
New York, Mexico, Managua, Bogotá, Lima, Buenos Aires
220030, SIZO-1, 2 Valadarski St.,
“Freedom, Sancho, is one of the most precious gifts that heaven gave men. The treasures of the earth and sea are not equal to it. One can and must risk one’s life for freedom, and for honor.”
(Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra)
We send you warm greetings in solidarity from the FIDH vice-presidents for the Americas, head of advocacy before the OAS, mission leaders, and Secretary General.
Thanks to the active concern of our president Souhayr Belhassen and our International Secretariat, we have learned of your arrest and your efforts to keep your spirit free, in spite of the bars imposed on you by tyranny. We bring Don Quixote to mind at the head of this letter because, although they think we are mad (as they called the “mothers of the Plaza de Mayo”), we have the strength and awareness to conquer even what seems impossible, just as you do, Ales, risking life and freedom, because sanity must be as such.
We send you greetings from New York, Ales, where storms have added their grief to yet another anniversary of the attacks on the twin towers on 11 September, a day when thousands of people lost their lives and since then hundreds of thousands more have died with the curtailing of basic freedoms in many parts of the world. We would like to remind those blinded by the promotion of dogmatic terrorism, or state or imperial terrorism, of Benjamin Franklin’s message, which also applies to your valor, Ales, “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
We, also, embrace you, Ales, from Mexico City, a country whose inhabitants see themselves in Frida Khalo’s paintings, in the pain and tragedy to which they are condemned by the barbarity of criminals who have buried thousands of their children under the miserable songs of the narcocorridos, while the authorities themselves cover with blood the nation and the flag in the name of security. Frida, who gave shelter to Trotsky in his last days of exile, her spine broken and nearly paralyzed, always called for freedom, restlessly querying, “Feet, feet, why do I want you if I have wings to fly?”. Ales, the regime will not keep you from flying because men like you can be jailed but can never be deprived of their freedom!
We vindicate you, Ales, from Managua, Nicaragua, where a betrayed revolution buries democracy and justice under the corruption and shameful cynicism of its leaders. Tens of thousands of Nicaraguans gave their lives for this revolution. Even the poets who sang of love and hope, like Ernesto Cardenal, are being persecuted. But there are verses that do not die, and people who never give up. Together with Gioconda Belli we can declaim, “We are now wrapped in beautiful slogans, defying poverty, brandishing our will against evil omens, and this smile covers the horizon”. Can you smile, Ales, as you defy the poverty of the walls that make the prison of those who, though free, are more imprisoned than you? Undoubtedly so, Ales, because with your smile you bring down the infamous walls of the infamous wretchedness of those who imprison your people.
Ales, from Bogota, 2,600 meters closer to the stars, we cherish your struggle and your courage, which many cannot see because misery has clouded their vision in the same way that the powerful are blinded by power causing them to set aside opportunities for peace while, from their winter palaces, they continue to dispense death. Despite this, we continue to make ours the words of Carlos Castro Saavedra, a poet from the mountains who loved our people, “I must reach the source of your life, the source of my native land and of your veins, wife-land, and land of my caresses, capital of my songs and of my sorrows”. Ales, your blue-eyed country calls for you in your prison cell. The eyes of your people shall see the destroyer of liberty depart, inglorious, into the oblivion of time.
Ales, we send you greetings from Lima, where a despot, who once believed himself invincible, after having usurped the State for his own benefit and that of his family and friends, is now serving time in prison for promoting corruption and for grievous human rights violations. In the city where it never rains, the footsteps of they who have disappeared and they who have been murdered descend from the Andes. Their memories are revived through the relentless struggle of human rights defenders and of the victims themselves who could claim along with César Vallejo in the most profound despair, “God was out sick the day I was born”, but have overcome misery and oblivion and assert their dignity by fighting to live and living to fight just as your people who are unyielding in the face of the arrogance of their tyrant.
Ales, we send you greetings from Buenos Aires, where with unwavering determination we are trying to stop the history of terrorism from burying us. The grandmothers and mothers of the Plaza de Mayo continue in the struggle that we all bear in our conscience so that crimes of State are never again repeated and so that never again a minority of power holders is able to sacrifice the peoples’ dreams of freedom. You, Ales, are part of the group of human beings who promote the message of Ernesto Sábato, “There is one way of contributing to the protection of humanity, and that is to never give up.” Ales, you will never give up, and we will never accept that the regime of Belarus keep you in prison. Those who should be in prison are they who restrict your freedom and that of your compatriots. There are lessons to be learned from the history of civilisations!
We bid you farewell for now Ales, wanting to fill your cell with our love and the strength of our hope. When Gabriel García Márquez received the Nobel Prize in literature he said of solitude in Latin America, “And yet, in the face of oppression, plunder, and desolation, we choose life. Rain, plagues, hunger, disasters, not even centuries of endless war, or centuries themselves have been able to reduce life’s tenacious advantage over death”. In this part of the world we have overcome dictatorships, we now need to assert the full dignity for human beings so that we can have democracies that are worthy of that name. As men and women who defend human rights it is our duty to preserve and spread the certainty that humanity will triumph over tyrants. Ales, you will never be alone, neither will our colleagues working for VIASNA, nor the people of Belarus.