December 25, 2011 – Upon learning of the death of Ales Bialiatski’s father, FIDH President Souhayr Belhassen wrote the imprisoned human rights defender a letter of support in the hope that it would be given to him. In the letter, Souhayr Belhassen recalls how Bialiatski supported her one year ago, when she learned of the death of her father in Tunis while visiting a Kyrgyz prison with her colleagues.
22A Sovetsksaya St, Prison No. 8
Zhodino, Minsk Oblast, 22160
Dear Ales, My Dear Friend,
It was with pain that I learned of the misfortune that has befallen you.
The loss of a father is a terrible event in the life of a person. But I can hardly imagine the pain of receiving this terrible news while in prison, far from relatives and loved ones, surrounded by hard-hearted guards and impervious walls, in a country whose leaders have long forgotten not just what justice and the rule of law are, but also what basic humanity is… You were not able to see your father for the last time, you will not able to see him off on his final journey. The regime continues to take revenge—basely and meanly, but painfully—for your principled positions and the good which you have done to so many people…
Words are nothing at a time like this. But still I want you to know that you are not alone in your grief or in your forced solitude. We are with you in this difficult time.
I cannot help but recall a very personal and memorable day in my life. It was exactly one year ago that one short December day you and I visited a Bishkek prison where the Kyrgyz human rights defender Azimzhan Askarov, who was illegally sentenced to life imprisonment, was being held. It was there, in the torture chambers of Bishkek, that I received a terrible phone call about the death of my father in Tunis, literally on the other side of the planet… I will never forget your support on that day and during that trip, where everything has melted together in my memory: the prison, injustice, solidarity, the death of a loved one…and the friendship and warmth with which you surrounded me.
It is harder for us to show you even a fraction of the support that you gave to me during that difficult time. The government of Belarus will not grant me a meeting with you or even issue me a visa to visit your country. But I hope that our words of hope and comfort reach you through the prison walls. I am not the only one thinking of you today. Dozens of FIDH activists and the most diverse groups of people from all corners of the world are also with you, and we send you our most sincere sympathies.
Let the New Year bring you and your loved ones hope and the strength to survive the dreadful trials that have fallen to you. Let justice reign in this New Year and let all political prisoners in Belarus attain their long-awaited freedom. We will do everything we can to achieve this.
So, despite the bitterness of these days, it is with hope that I bid farewell to you. On behalf of all our colleagues and friends, I say to you dear Ales, see you soon! Stand firm! All our thoughts are with you and your family.
President of FIDH