No complaints, please
14:41, Aliaksandar Frantskievich — Opinion
Thousands of agents in disguise from various security services are released from prisons and jails on a daily basis, with no control whatsoever.
Today political prisoners are often in focus, which is not surprising. In Belarus, talking politics is a taboo and risk. For the society, political prisoners are an archetype of actual changes.
However, our police state has been using concentration camps and criminal sentences against its opponents long enough. And it’s not only politics; a broad audience is embraced by repressions. Basically, the state has set a goal to monopolize or suppress everything: economy, politics, systems of public control, infrastructure.
It is getting more evident in prisons where you can meet businessmen, well-known political or public figures, authorities tossed around during a KGB raid.
Sometimes these people, already repressed, develop rather profound social consciousness. Victims of redistributions of property and power, minced by the regime’s repression machine, they have felt Leviathan’s breath and now deliberately resist prison administrations.
I met Andrei Chalapa under amazing circumstances. I had only 10 months left of my term, when one November day I heard a rumor about a “yammerer” who has reached the presidential administration and for that reason sent to penal isolation jail for 30 days. He was transferred from reformatory No15 and some of other prisoners had already told what they had heard about him. The news immediately caught my attention, because he could know something about my friend Kolia Dziadok who was a prisoner in reformatory No15. I spoke to Andrei for the first time two days later when I was placed to the prison’s isolation cell. We talked through two doors of the isolation wing, at night, in moist cells with hardly any heating at all. We had to shout to hear each other, but still I liked this person. He was too smart for an average prisoner, and unlike an average yammerer he had a firm political position.
It is a rare thing for a convict, to have a firm position. The majority of inmates are devoid of any principles, ideals or priorities. For me, it was much easier to talk to nazis (it was mutual), although before prison street fight was our only channel of communication. I can only feel respect towards someone who adapts to circumstances and is ready to stand for their ideas, instead of trying to join a flock in the surrounding world of hypocrisy, lie and opportunism. Even though it may contradict my own beliefs.
Andrei is a Muslim. No, he’s not an Arab, he is Belarusian. He was a member of Talaka, took part in the defense of Kurapaty. He speaks fluent Belarusian, which was the cause of multiple attacks from the prison administration. There are always a couple of morons in the operative department who regard the Belarusian language sedition.
Andrei is a former businessman. His business went down when the Department of financial investigation discovered that a couple of documents were missing. He was then accused of fraud entrepreneurship, or in other words, of documenting deals that never existed. Andrei tried to justify his business, all in vain. It is hard to convince the court of one’s innocence, however obvious.
At first, Andrei was shocked by this isolated world where injustice is a common routine. He saw what an absolute, pure power is like, and he tried to fight it with complaints, the method that any state machine should accept gratefully.
One could assume that repressions that follow after a prisoner submits a complaint are nothing more than a consequence of administration’s inadequacy. However, I believe that this is a well-planned policy. Its purpose is to locate those who are not happy, and show them who decides. Prison administration can forward complaints to public prosecutors – or complaints can remain within prison walls or even appear in garbage. I don’t recall any example when a policeman would suffer consequences of a complaint on conviction conditions.
My observations brought me to an opposite conclusion. Those administration employees who are objects of complaints submitted by convicts received salary perks; hence they did their best to make convicts complain. They were somewhat annoyed by media coverage of prison’s problems, but only a little bit. The only thing that could make them nervous was a rebellion (in all its forms). But it takes guts to start a rebellion; it is always the choice of the majority. A one-man rebellion is always a failure.
Andrei realized that, but he was all by himself. Convicts are normally intimidated either by the administration, or inmates recruited by the administration. His rebellion took form of an open spit, as public as possible, in the face of the state power.
He wrote complaints. He wrote lots of long witty complaints. He sent letters to independent media, avoiding censorship. And of course, for that reason he was unpopular with every prison administration he met. Andrei sent a brilliant letter signed by some other convicts of reformatory No15 to the ruler, after which Lukashenka personally told public prosecutor to check the situation, Andrei and the signees of the letter were isolated for 30 days. A week later he was transferred to our prison.
But his adventure wasn’t over yet. The very fact of our communication irritated the administration. One of bosses told Andrei: “How can you talk to him, he is an anarchist!” Indeed, anarchists dislike business and property owners, but a prison authority cannot fathom that when this person turned into a regular convict, having lost everything he had, he became just a prisoner like me. Soon Andrei started to frequent isolation cells of out reformatory No22. Thrice did he announce hunger strike. And finally he was transferred from my unit to the most remote unit to prevent information from reaching the media and deprive me of this human contact.
When I was released, I couldn’t even say goodbye to him. Now I am free – but with preventive control hanging over my head as Damocles’ sward threatening to put me back to the BelGULAG.
Andrei will not be released until January. I have heard the news that he will also be placed under preventive control, not for ix months but for the whole two years. Human rights advocates don’t write about Andrei Chalap, the media and the European Parliament are silent. He is just another regular convict, one of those rightfully condemned, as the society often thinks. His trial on the 12th will be dull and typical (doesn’t it remind of something?), the administration and public prosecutor will demand a two-year preventive control followed by the judge scheduling the final session that will only prove the conclusion of the accusation, and Andrei will be controlled for two years.
Two years of control for writing complaints, those very papers that public prosecutors are supposed to read. Two years for speaking Belarusian, for not bending under the administration, for keeping contact and supporting me in my worst times, when only a couple of people were brave enough to talk to me.
Thousands of agents in disguise from various security services are released from prisons and jails on a daily basis, with no control whatsoever. They continue to steal, rob and sell drugs, right in front of the police. But as soon as you say something against them, as soon as you refuse to cooperate and organize provocations, you immediately turn into an “enemy of the nation”. No, not nation, flock who has no face, but a perfectly defined form and function, flock that lives by our side and who turns people’s lives to hell in its regular routine manner.
Andrei wasn’t scared of the flock, but he was alone, so he wrote to the flock who responded to his letters with repressions. For that, for addressing the higher power, he will be controlled. I do hope that he will make the right conclusion upon his release.
This “flock” doesn’t respond to a complaining tone. It only understands the language of power. But can we become a power? Can we find strength to fight? Or will we remain hiding in our homes while Andrei Chalapas write their complaints?
Aliaksandar Frantskievich for charter97.org