BELARUS: A Story from inside a dictatorship
"Your Batska is so good! How come you don't like him?" — Belarusians don't speak that way. Nobody calls Alexander Lukashenko "Batska" in Belarus any more. This is a story of a friend (for his security we don’t mention his name) about things that happened to him between the 11th and 12th of August. We can confirm the reliability of the source.
I was surrounded by something like 300 civilians. Two black vans from "ALMAZ" (Belorussian special forces) have approached and stopped nearby. I noticed that another bunch of the police wagons were approaching, at least six of them — ALMAZ and OMON (SWAT of Belarus) teams began to run out of the vans simultaneously. We realized we were surrounded and started to run to the direction that still seemed to be open. Soon we noticed the special forces units in front of us, equipped with helmets and machine guns: they were stopping the cars, breaking down the doors and windows. They were pointing weapons at people, making them kneel, yelling and swearing. We realized there was nowhere to go. I hid in the place between the billboards on the street, which only had one little spot uncovered. I was looking through this window and saw a man standing on his knees, getting beaten up by the special unit soldier. The man fell down, and the beatings continued. The soldier leaned forward to tell something to the man, then lifted his head and made an eye contact with me. He gestured "come here" with his finger. It was the most terrifying moment of the night, when I realized I was done. I got beaten up and my hands got tied up behind my back. After that, three special unit guys in uniform took me aside and told me: "Now we will put a hand grenade into your underpants and pull the pin out — you'll be blown up to pieces and we will report your death as from an unknown explosive device". They stuffed a hand grenade into my underwear, then ran away. They've come back, beat me again and brought me back to the rest. My teeth chipped because I had to carry my backpack in my mouth — in case the backpack fell down, I got beaten, had to pick it up and got beaten more. They beat you up all the time, non—stop. They put me in a wagon — there was a crowd, they stuffed around 20 of us in there, lying on the top of each other. Once in a while we'd get the beatings. If you tried to complain, you got extra beatings. One man said "I've got asthma" — he was approached by one of the special unit soldiers, put his boot on his throat, choking him and saying: "You can as well die for what we care". At some point they took me to a different wagon — there were policemen inside and outside. They put my face down on the floor and beat me with their boots for two or three minutes. My legs got swollen. They took me back to the first wagon and drove away — I had the special ops soldier foot on my neck for half of the way. If you lift your face a millimetre off the ground you get the beatings. I had no phone, no passport on me. Those who had, had their phones taken away from them and attempted to unlock them. If you don't tell them the password, they break your phone. One guy didn't want to tell them how to unlock it — he was stripped naked and threatened to be raped with batons. He told them the password and they went on looking through his Telegram—channels. There were girls, around 18 year old. They were taken in because they dared to pay attention to people being hurt around them. Two soldiers approached and started to call them whores. One girl tried to talk back and they shaved a half of her hair off. "If you won't shut up we will take you to the facilities, throw into a cell full of dudes — you'll get raped and we'll dump you in the forest. This will be the end of your story".Girls are getting beaten less, but the boys are beaten like crazy, with fists, boots, batons and riffles — when we happened to be by the wall, they bashed our heads against it. We were brought to the transfer point where people were jammed into police vans going straight to the detention center. At that point we were unloaded (well, rather beat out of the vehicles) and forced to run through a brutal “gauntlet” of about 40 people, 20 on each side, who frenziedly beat us. They were deliberately aiming at the head, groin, and legs, so that we would fall. When someone fell, they kicked him until he got up. At the end of the line, they took me by the arms and legs and threw me into a bus. I believe that we were handled by Russian special operation forces there. When they saw my "Freedom to Sentsov" t—shirt, they reacted: "Alright, you are also against Russia." Also, they spoke with a Russian accent and addressed us “You, Belarusians”, as if they themselves were not. "Your Batska is so good! How come you don't like him?" — this would be a strange thing to hear from Belarusians. There are rubber batons and batons with a metal rod inside. Before, they beat us with the rubber ones. Once again: there was no option for any resistance. You just don't resist. You do what they tell. You keep silent. You don't try to claim your rights. In the bus, a soldier came up to me, stood on me and went on beating me on the head with a metal—rod baton. Because it is almost a stick, the first blow nearly sent me out of my senses. He kept beating me for a while and then left. Then, they threw other people on me. I struggled to breathe. I’m not sure where it is better: above, being beaten, or below, suffocating. Then they forced us back from the bus, through the gauntlet, into the police van. Although police vans have small cameras for three people, they were crammed with 8 detainees. I got near the wall, pressed against it. At that moment I saw blood streaming down the wall. Before that, I didn’t realise that my head was smashed because I couldn't feel it. In that stifling van I struggled to maintain consciousness, passing out several times. When we arrived at the detention center and the door opened, I just fell out. They said, "Oh, it looks like this one is done." They took me by the scruff of the neck, threw out of the car, dragged along the ground and left on the grass. My head was bleeding, my whole body was black and blue. I could not move and was constantly losing consciousness. I felt sick and saliva was coming out of my mouth, which they diagnosed as: "Oh, and this one is also on drugs." At some point, I started to convulse. The doctor said that I was unconscious so that they would not beat me again. Everyone else was put on their knees and continued to be beaten up. The activists and those who, in their opinion, participated in organising the protests were marked with red paint, separated and taken away. At the same time, there were terrible screams and groans of people constantly echoing around the whole detention center. The rumor goes that there are special torture rooms where people are beaten up until they lose consciousness. I think it is true.
There are a lot of wounded detainees in hospitals. With bullet wounds, cuts, fractures. There are not enough doctors. I was lucky that the ambulance took me out of the detention center. This is a concentration camp where people are tortured.