Flower Power: Women Prisoners in Belarus
The combined sentences of those jailed in demonstrations amount to nearly 500 years.
Amid the unprecedented wave of protests that took place in Belarus in 2020, there was a popular belief that the state would be more merciful to women protestors, many of whom dressed in white and carried flowers.
The data says the opposite: women of all ages were imprisoned in the brutal crackdown that followed. Their combined sentences amount to 461 years, with the most common term between two and three years in a penal colony.
Eighteen per cent were aged above 50, while two were underage and at least 15 detainees have children.
The true picture is likely to be even harsher, as there are gaps in the data available.
About a quarter of all the publicly available information collected by volunteers and human rights defenders is incomplete and cannot be analysed. Due to the fear and stigma associated with political prisoners, relatives frequently hide the fact of having that family members were charged on political grounds.
And since observers, lawyers and human rights defenders are not allowed in court, sometimes the basic ability to register verdicts and charges themselves is impossible.
For instance, 57 women currently kept in pre-trial detention awaiting court hearings and thus their status is hard to classify.
Meanwhile, the number of political prisoners in Belarus continues to rise, and now approaches 1,500.
Also see: drawings by ex-prisoner, Belarusian artist Nadya Sayapina. In autumn 2020, she was arrested and spent 15 days in jail for picketing against police violence used in suppressing August rallies. In cell she drew (mainly portraits of her cellmates) using a ballpen and scarce paper available.
This publication was prepared under the "Amplify, Verify, Engage (AVE) Project" implemented with the financial support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Norway.