US and British stars urge sportsmen to show solidarity with Belarus
18:42, — Politics
Prominent art celebrities have addressed participants of the Ice Hockey World championship.
On 21st of December, of 2010 after a bloody crackdown of a peaceful rally when citizens of Belarus went to protest against falsification of elections, several persons started “Don’t Play with Dictators” campaign, a boycott campaign against the Ice Hockey World Championship in Belarus in 2014. The campaign was supported by members of the European Parliament, US Senators and Congressmen, a number of international public associations, common citizens all over the world.
The leadership of the International Ice Hockey Federation presided by René Fasel and politicians in the sports didn’t listen to the arguments of the participants of the campaign for holding the championship in another country. And finally holding the prestigious international competition was accompanied by arrests of dozens of public activists all over Belarus.
Today people of art who had supported the campaign address sportsmen directly and ask to show their active civic stance and support Belarusians, to show solidarity with those (who had been thrown into prison without good reason) during the championship.
- Unfortunately, the leadership of the International Ice Hockey Federation didn’t listen to the arguments of those who advocated moving the championship to another country, - says one of the organisers of the campaign, art-director of Belarus Free Theatre Nikolai Khalezin. – As a result, dozens of innocent people were incarcerated in Belarus, and hockey, as well as the recent Olympic games, have been used to whitewash images of the two dictators, Alyaksandr Lukashenka and Vladimir Putin. It is twice sad as one of them is fighting an aggressive war against Ukraine, while the other supports him in that unconditionally.
The leadership of the International Ice Hockey Federation many times answered our addresses using a point that “sport is outside politics.” But unfortunately, it has happened just exactly in the way we warned about. The elite sport has come to serve whims of the dictators, whitewashing their image. Sports officials are the first who are in charge for these events, who have taken sportsmen hostages, as it turned out.
And now we want to ask sportsmen themselves: do they have will to demonstrate their civic position and show solidarity with Belarusians, like people of art are doing today?
The organisers of the campaign have sent the text of the open letter to the editorial office of charter97.org. We offer the full text of the letter:
Open Letter to all Ice Hockey Players who take part in the World Cup of Ice Hockey in Belarus
We are artists writing to athletes, asking you take a moment to consider the political situation of the country where the Ice Hockey World Championships is taking place.
Alexander Lukashenko is known as “Europe’s Last Dictator”.
Belarusians have lived for 20 years under Lukashenko’s regime, and have faced torture, murder, intimidation and harassment for speaking out against his inhumane laws and regulations.
Lukashenko has created a publicity campaign with the slogan: “Big ice hockey supports Alexander Lukashenko”.
We do not believe that. We believe ice hockey players support freedom and human rights. Please do not let yourselves be used by a despot. Join us by showing you do not support the Last Dictator of Europe and that you stand with the people of Belarus by wearing a red and white scarf, or pin, after the match. These are colors of our national flag that is recognized in Belarus as symbol of resistance.
On 21st of December, of 2010 after a bloody crackdown of a peaceful rally when citizens of Belarus went to protest against falsification of elections, five of us started “Don’t Play with Dictators” campaign. Those five people included a unique person the late Vaclav Havel, a playwright and dissident born under a communist dictatorship who went on to be President of a free Czechoslovakia.
We ask you to show the Belarusian people that the courage and strength you show in your sport is not blind, and to join them by demonstrating your opposition a regime that violates human rights. This simple act of support would give millions strength in a time of political turmoil, just as the brave actions of athletes at Mexico in 1968 and Sochi in 2014, touched countless of people around the world.
We are not in a position of executive power, but we believe by uniting as artists and athletes we can make a difference simply by showing the Belarusian people that we value human rights and freedom and that we stand with them. We have a moral authority and it should not be misused by dictators for their own aims.
Belarus has been frozen in time. Its people have no opportunity under its Soviet style dictatorship. The recent invasion of the Ukraine by Russia means that the entire region is in danger of returning to the austere times of the Soviet Union.
Artists and athletes have a responsibility to make voices heard on behalf of those who are silenced, not as athletes or as artists, but as fellow human beings.
You are people of strong will and action. Usually it’s the fans who show their support for you, now it’s your turn to support them.
Put a white-red-white scarf on when you get on the ice. The red represents courage and white represents compassion. The scarf will demonstrate to the fans that you recognize the dictator for who he really is and that you stand behind the fans. Wearing the scarf will give them courage and let them know that their voices are heard.
Sport should be kept out of politics but when it’s not, athletes must demonstrate that they know what is going on, that they care, and they stand behind their fans in their quest for human rights and freedom.
Don’t play with Dictators, support your fans!
The letter has been signed by Laurie Anderson, Michael Attenborough, Kim Cattrall, Stephen Fry, Ralph Gibson, Hugh Grant, Paul Haggis, Natalia Kaliada, Nicolai Khalezin, David Lan, Jude Law, Joanna Lumley, Alan Rickman, Mark Rylance, Vladimir Shcherban, Tom Stoppard, Andy Summers, Janet Suzman, Emma Thompson.