The Society of Authors (SoA) has strongly condemned the raid this month on the offices of its sister union in Belarus. The Union of Belarusian Writers’ (UBW) offices in Minsk was raided by government officials on 14 July.
According to reports from the European Writers’ Council, the Combating Organised Crime and Corruption Directorate of the Belarusian Ministry of the Interior last week conducted what it calls a nationwide ‘radical cleansing’ operation against independent groups of writers, journalists, cultural workers, and human rights organisations, including the UBW and PEN Belarus.
The SoA has written to Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab MP to call on the UK Government to apply further diplomatic pressure on Belarus to end violence and repression across the country.
The writers’ groups were among 21 unions and civil society organisations to face crackdowns by the Belarusian Government, including the Association of Belarusian Journalists, the independent academic research centre BEROC, and Viasna, the human rights organisation defending political prisoners.
Viasna’s founder and Chair Ales Bialiatski, writer and laureate of the 2020 Alternative Nobel Award, was detained with UBW Chair, Barys Piatrovich. Piatrovich is prohibited from leaving the country and subject to a non-disclosure agreement.
According to PEN International, 590 authors, artists and cultural workers were attacked and subjected to psychological and physical violence in Belarusian prisons in 2020. This violence and repression has now been extended to civil society groups across Belarus.
The SoA stands with all Belarusian writers, artists and other cultural workers, joining the European Writers Council, Belarus PEN and PEN International in condemning the ongoing violence and repression in the country – including the news that the Belarusian Justice Ministry intends to close down PEN Belarus.
They will continue to lobby the UK Government to act, and to encourage UK authors and industry to stand in solidarity with PEN Belarus:
· Sign PEN America’s petition ‘I Support PEN Belarus’
· Send a message of solidarity through the PENWrites campaign
· Follow PEN Belarus on Twitter @pen_belarus
· Spread the word and show your support for #PENBelarus