Photographer: Yauhen Yerchak
Title: Protest has a woman face
Location: Minsk, Belarus
Period: 09/2020 - 09/2020
Category: Spot News

This series of photographs was taken in September 2020 during female protests (so-called "Women's Marches") against government violence and electoral fraud in Minsk, Belarus. Month before, on August 9, 2020, presidential elections were held in Belarus. This presidential campaign in the post-Soviet country, where Alexander Lukashenko had ruled for 26 years, was the dirtiest in history.

Most of the opposition presidential candidates were not registered, some were imprisoned before the elections. The voting was carried out with numerous violations and after the closure of polling stations and the announcement of the official exit poll data about Lukashenko's victory people went to the streets to protest. The police responded to the protests with an unprecedented violence. Tear gas, flash grenades, water cannons, rubber bullets and, in some cases, firearms were used against protesters, hundreds of people were injured, several were killed, and more than six thousand were arrested from August 9 to 11. Arrested people were beaten and tortured in police stations and prisons - UN experts are aware of 450 documented cases of torture and ill-treatment of people.
On August 12, women's peaceful protests against police violence began in Minsk and other cities. As a result police violence practically ceased for about two weeks and protestors were not detained. However, at the end of August, arrests began again - firstly men, and then participants of women's actions. Women's protests against government violence and electoral fraud continued for one and a half months, gathering up to ten thousand participiants of Women's Marches and dying out in late September after several dispersals of the women's protest actions and the detention of more than 600 women in total (not counting those detained at other, not purely women's rallys). However, during this time the Belarusian protest itself has acquired a face and it is distinctly a woman's face. And women's protest, which has taken on other forms, continues to this day. Even now, a year later, when all street protest activity is brutally suppressed, small actions of the so-called "women with umbrellas" (or "women in white / red / black") take place in Minsk from time to time.



Women take part in khorovod circle dance on the Independence square during the women protest rally in Minsk Belarus on 5th September 2020

Women march participants carry posters SOS in Minsk Belarus on 19th September 2020

Participant of the women protest rally holds a poster depicting victims of police violence on August 9-11 in front of a line of security officials in military uniforms without identification marks Minsk Belarus on 5th September 2020

Women stand with clasped hands in front of security officials during the protest rally that was held in Minsk on 8th September 2020 in support of opposition leader Maria Kolesnikova arrested day before and all repressed and arrested people The peaceful procession was dispersed by people in military uniforms without identification marks and in balaclavas probably anti-riot police forces People mostly women broke up into few groups and stood with clasped hands to prevent the detaining The police surrounded the protesters and began to grab the men and then the women from the bonds In total more than 50 people were detained

Women stand with clasped hands in front of security officials in military uniforms without identification marks during the Women s march in Minsk Belarus on 12th September 2020 The security forces tried to prevent the march by dispersing the women at the march s assembly point About 70 women were detained but the march still took place gathering 10 000 people

Belarus women resist the police attempt to detain them during the protest rally that was held in Minsk on 8th September 2020 in support of oppozition leader Maria Kolesnikova arrested day before and all repressed and arrested people

Women try to block police bus with detainees during the Women s march in Minsk Belarus on 12th September 2020

A woman with a child argues with security officials during the dispersal of the protest rally that was held in Minsk on 8th September 2020 in support of oppozition leader Maria Kolesnikova arrested day before and all repressed and arrested people

Belarusian policemen detain participants of Women s march in Minsk Belarus 19 September 2020 Around 400 women were detained during the March

Belarus women try to climb onto a cafe balcony to escape as security officials in military uniforms without identification marks detain participants of Women s march in Minsk Belarus 12 September 2020

Security officials in military uniforms without identification marks detain a participant of Women s march in Minsk Belarus 26 September 2020 This was the last major Women s march its participants were dispersed several times and more than 50 people were detained

Belarusian women shows a victory sign from a police van after being detained during the Women s march in Minsk Belarus 12 September 2020