Sunday, January 16, 2011

American Writers and Actors Helping Belarus

Belarus is a country in Eastern Europe that has suffered one misfortune after another. It shares borders with Russia, Poland and Lithuania that disputed these territories for a long time. During World Wat II, Belarus suffered horrible losses at the hands of the Nazis who destroyed over a third of its population and about a half of its economic resources.

The Chernobyl nuclear disaster of 1986 dumped 70% of its radioactive materials on the unprotected people of Belarus who for a while weren't even told of what was happening to them. Belarus became an ecological disaster zone. As a result, a 40% increase in cancer rates (that is predicted to go up to 125% within the lifetimes of the survivors of the catastrophe) has been observed in Belarus.

As if that weren't enough suffering, since 1994 Belarus has been ruled by a fascist dictator Alexander Lukashenko. He has been condemned by the EU for horrible human rights violations on a variety of occasions and has been made notorious by his anti-semitic statements. Lukashenko can afford not to care about that, though, since his regime is supported by Russia. Russia isn't interested in being surrounded by strong nation-states and has been punishing its neighbors for daring to seek independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Nobody seems to care a whole lot about Belarus because it's small and located far away. This is why I was so happy to hear about American celebrities who are helping attract attention to the violation of human rights in this country:
Playwright Tom Stoppard, novelists Don Delillo and E.L. Doctorow and actor Billy Crudup are among those who will read Jan. 19 in New York to benefit the Belarus Free Theater. . . Belarus saw political unrest after a controversial election in December.  . . Public protests were swiftly followed by a new crackdown, targeting advocates of civil rights and free speech. Authorities arrested more than 600 journalists and free speech advocates, including members of the Belarus Free Theater. Since its founding in 2005, the Belarus Free Theater has been on the outs with authorities. The troupe rehearses in unofficial spaces and performs its politically charged plays in cafes, apartments and even the woods.
I don't whether we can reasonably expect this instance of activism to make a big effect, but at least this will attract attention to Belarus's plight. If you are in New York, this is the information on the benefit:
Wednesday's benefit for the Belarus Free Theater, which promises to include special guests, will take place at Le Poisson Rouge in New York; doors open at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $25.

1 comment:

David said...

I'm glad that somebody is bringing attention to Belarus. I can count the number of times I've seen it mentioned in the media recently on one hand. If even.

Thanks for the article Clarissa.