The Belarusian human rights defender and FIDH vice-president visited Tunis in March 2011, immediately following the revolution and the fall of Ben Ali’s regime, to support human rights defenders from this Arab country, who were inspired by the success of this revolution, and to share Belarus’s experience during its transition period. Ales Bialiatski called the political regimes of Belarus and Tunisia twin brothers in terms of suppression of civil liberties and pressure on civil society.
Now Tunisian human rights defenders are sending words of support to their colleague, who is being persecuted by Belarusian authorities for his activities.
Khadija Cherif, FIDH Secretary General (Tunisian League for Human Rights):
The news of your arrest has spread across the world and deeply outraged people from all walks of life. I have kept promising myself since the time of your arrest that I would write you to relay the feeling of indignation that swept over me after I received this news and to express my full support during this difficult time. I ask you to forgive me for doing this so late, but please believe me when I say that you are always in my thoughts. I am always asking about you and talking about you with Souhayr, Sasha, and all our friends from FIDH. I also never miss the chance to speak to activists in the region, and especially in Tunisia, about you. They, in turn, pass this information on to others and stridently condemn your imprisonment. They may not write you about this, but you should know that their solidarity with you and your fight is extremely strong. Sometimes I think that our delay in writing you, in spite of all our conversations about you, is connected with the oral culture that is much more characteristic of our region than written culture, which we acquired only over centuries… Please also know that wherever I go, your name appears in my speeches along with demands for your immediate release and denunciations of the ruling regime in Belarus.
Your visit to Tunisia left a deep impression on us and demonstrated the unusual similarity between the former regime in Tunisia and your current regime to those who had not been aware of this before… In fact, all repressive regimes are similar, and history, including contemporary history, shows that they are also similar because they all eventually fall and justice is served, rising to the defense of fundamental liberties, human rights, and democracy.
Even the recent example of Tunisia, which is especially dear to me, is enough to bring hope, and everything that happened later in our region is proof of this. In spite of all the horrors that peaceful civilians had to face as a result, the wind of freedom has picked up, carrying with it always and everywhere the kernel of future changes.
Your fight, your determination, the risks which you knowingly took, and even the injustice that you find yourself a victim of will bring benefit in spite of everything. The support that is being shown to you by your Viasna colleagues is unwavering and admirable. My admiration of them knows no bounds. I would also like to mention Sasha Koulaeva, who has spent the last three months tirelessly working to mobilize anyone and everyone to support you, your work, and, as a consequence, our shared cause of fighting for human rights. Naturally she does this on behalf of everyone at FIDH, but also because of her own personal loyalty, a quality that is met so rarely. Sasha and Valentin will soon, I hope, meet with you and tell you how we opened the Human Dimension Implementation Meeting in Warsaw. I was pleased to be able to participate in this event with them.
Many promising signals give us reason to hope for the best.
Filled with this hope, I send you warmest wishes, my dear friend, and I hope to soon be able to embrace you in person.
In support and friendship,
Tunisian League for Human Rights
FIDH Secretary General
Ahlem Belhaj (Tunisian Association of Democratic Women):
Dear Mr. Bialiatski,
The news of your arrest shocked us, saddened us, and outraged us…but it did not surprise us, since it came from a political regime that clings on only because of its repressive actions against activists defending freedom, justice, and human rights.
Your fight for human rights, for both men and women, is also our fight and it will prevail out of necessity thanks to your determination and indefatigability and in spite of the hardships and deprivations that fall to you and your colleagues as a result of your most important activities.
We frequently look back to your speech in Tunis at the seminar on democratic transitions, which provided us with a poignant reminder of our very recent past. How similar are repressive regimes! How similar are attempts to stifle democratic voices! We truly hope that your people will end the current repressive regime, just as we did away with our old system. And this will be a credit to you, since you have long fought against injustice and the sufferings borne of it.
Know that our support for you is boundless and that we anxiously await your release, which we will hasten insofar as we are able. Our goal is the same—the defense of freedom and human dignity.
Our thoughts are with you, dear Mr. Bialiatski, and with your family and colleagues.
on behalf of the Tunisian Association of Democratic Women