News – AU – Police grabbed the flag of 74-year-old Nina What she did next is a riot


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Two women, born generations apart, have come together to overthrow the man known as “Europe’s last dictator”

Maria and Nina are part of an extraordinary uprising in the former Soviet Republic of Belarus, which is inspired and led by women

Everyone risks to defy a ruthless dictator who insists they are too weak to play a leading role in their nation’s future

Nina Baginskaya has barely arrived at her country hut outside the capital Minsk to work in the garden when the first admirer stops her

“We’re standing next to a celebrity,” an old man calls out, “Are you going to get rid of this fool or not?”

The “fool” he is referring to is Alexander Lukashenko, self-proclaimed President of Belarus and Europe’s longest-ruling dictator

Since August, people have been defying the riot police, bullets and stun grenades to protest against him almost every day

“I can’t stand it when young people die,” he says and tears suddenly well up in his eyes

She has kept her promise almost every day and has marched at the head of mass protests, retirees protests, women protests and neighborhood protests and has always held up the forbidden red and white Belarusian flag

Few of them aroused more courage or took greater risks than Nina

during the months of protests in Belarus

She has been arrested multiple times but refuses to resign even if police take her flag away

The local rock band Dai Darogu showed an animation of her as a badass grandma in a music video for the protests

Seeing a little old lady defend herself against state brutality gave people a fraction of Nina’s age

“She’s not afraid of anything. She doesn’t worry about all the police”

Before August, Maria used to spend her free time partying with friends or traveling abroad Her Instagram feeds a collection of glamorous poses at bars, beaches, and famous landmarks

“When people ask me what I should do before 9th August I do not remember my previous life “

“I’ve seen a lot of blood on the streets,” says Maria “I’ve seen a lot of terrible things that are still in front of my eyes and maybe that’s one of the reasons I still protest every moment I do got “

Mostly she marches in groups of women, dressed in the red and white colors of the forbidden national flag

Belarusian women are at the forefront of one of the longest-running protest movements in recent history, in a country where dictatorship seemed invulnerable

The former collective farm boss, who likes to dress in military uniform and wears a Kalashnikov, says women are simply not suited to run a country

“Our society has not grown to vote for women,” he told a group of mostly female factory workers

“Our constitution is a heavy burden, even for a man. If you burden a woman, she will break down, poor thing”

Belarus lies between Russia and Poland and is proving to be a testing ground for the power of the people in the former Soviet Union, and the Kremlin is watching nervously

Six months of fearless protests here have inspired the Russians to demonstrate against Vladimir Putin over the past few weeks

So it was a busy year for Lukashenko, who once dreamed of uniting his country with Russia and ruling both

Before the last election in August, he imprisoned or banished most men who wanted to run for president

To his surprise, one of her wives ran instead. To his horror, she seemed to win

Svetlana Tikhanovskaya was so popular that the government-controlled electoral commission preventively announced an “exit poll” showing a landslide victory for Lukashenko, claiming only one in ten voted for Tikhanovskaya

Tikhanovskaya went to the commission to challenge the announcement and was promptly given the choice of either being jailed or leaving the country

She had previously sent her young children to Vilnius in neighboring Lithuania for protection, fearing what Lukashenko might do to them

“I know that many will understand me, many will judge me and many will hate me,” she said in a video to her followers

What followed was swift and brutal crackdown. One protester was killed and thousands of men arrested

Thousands of women took their places and formed their own protest groups among friends and neighbors

They marched peacefully, many holding red and white flowers and bandaging their arms in long lines through the streets

“Women have understood that they have to stand in front of [men] and defend them,” Tikhanovskaya told the foreign correspondent

“They didn’t want to lead this revolution, they just wanted to support their men. It just happened so naturally”

After months of regular arrests, Nina may be the only protester police that doesn’t dare to be arrested

Lukashenko himself gave a mocking order to leave her, otherwise “there will be no opposition”

There is no such guarantee for others to take to the streets Videos shared on social media show riot police raiding homes and pulling protesters out

Fear of arrest and possible jail time hangs over Maria Pugachjova during a protest in Minsk, she has to hide in a friend’s apartment while police call the suburbs to prevent her from joining the main protest

“I don’t remember a day when I didn’t have a dream with the police,” says Maria

“So I dream about them entering my apartment, how they hold me, so it’s kind of a great national trauma”

They look at their phones in horror while videos show people being grabbed by the street they were standing on just before Even a locked door doesn’t make them feel safe

Despite police action against the movement in Belarus, Nina remains firmly convinced that Lukashenko’s days are numbered

In her apartment in Minsk, Nina sews the red and white flags that she takes to every protest

Lukashenko banned the national flag in favor of the red and green banners from the Soviet era, in the hope of one day being with Russia again

“Seven flags were taken away from me by the police, so this is the eighth,” says Nina

Nina, a retired geologist, was a political activist even before Lukashenko came to power in 1994

She campaigned for the independence of Belarus from the Soviet Union in 1986 after the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine exploded and the landscape was showered with radiation

“They didn’t tell us to stay home and not go out and breathe the Chernobyl ashes that fell on us like rain from the clouds,” she recalls

“We are not people for them, they only care about their salaries and positions. That is why I support all movements in Belarus that aim to revive our nation”

She has been a thorn in Lukashenko’s side since he took over dictatorial powers in 1996

In the following years Lukashenko not only wiped out the new democracy in Belarus, but also took action against the newly won independence

He discouraged the Belarusian language in favor of Russian and suggested commemorations for the Chernobyl disaster

Nina’s generation of dissidents didn’t beat him, but they believe the protests will be unstoppable this time around

“First young people protested these unfair elections, then people my age joined in

“I encourage them to say, ‘Grandmothers and grandfathers, you are doing this right, the longer you stay at home, the faster you will die'”

Police have banned the media from filming the marches, but protesters uploaded videos from their smartphones to independent websites

“The youth have mastered technology,” says Nina. “They have cell phones, computers and the Internet and can tell the truth”

But it is not always easy for young protesters who are new to the fight against Lukashenko to follow Nina’s fearless example

Maria is at home in her apartment, smokes on the chain and drinks red wine to numb her nerves

On the way to protest, she was ordered into a car and taken to a police station for indictment

Maria knows the court could give her a jail sentence, but that’s not what upset her the most. So the police mocked and humiliated her

“They saw me and just said, ‘I think you’re having too much fun, let’s go,'” she says

“Belarus isn’t exactly a feminist country, so a lot of men think we’re just nice girls and that’s it

“You don’t know how much of us we’ve put into protests. You have no idea how many emotions, how much force we put in. You don’t know, You think it’s a game for us”

Maria meets her idol Nina Baginskaya In the early days of the protest, Maria took a selfie, but they never really met

Nina’s 23-year-old granddaughter usually lives in the apartment with her, but she had to flee after being attacked by the police

“I remember the first days, the 9th, 10 and 11, Guys in white t-shirts in the blood and all this violence. When you see things like this with your own eyes, you will never forget them “

“Are you ever scared? I’ve seen it many times when you came to these fascists with your flag Wow! “

“Conversely, when you are healthy in your head and find that your life is coming to an end, you want to express your abilities and courage, your ability to withstand evil

A week later, Mary’s day in court is up an hour before sunrise, packing a shoulder bag with warm clothes and books to read, in case she is sentenced to two weeks in prison

She leaves her apartment, past a huge red and white flag that someone has painted in her foyer, and takes the bus to the city center through a snow-covered city

Her case is one of the first. She was released with a fine. There is no point. Other protesters have been sentenced to months in prison

She knows that next time she might not be so lucky, but she firmly believes it will be next time

“Yes, of course, that’s what all people do after their arrest – they keep protesting”

A few days later, she and her friends come out of a café to march, all dressed in the forbidden colors of red and white

Red and white dresses, red and white masks and red and white umbrellas to catch the billowing snow

It is enough to have them arrested straight away, but they defiantly march to the police

After six months of protest it has become a battle of wills that neither side can afford to lose

Lukashenko and his army of thugs have lost all authority; Maria’s generation knows that there is no future in the country if he stays in power

“Maybe we’ll change history,” says Maria “I don’t know. It’s scary to think about the future But it’s even more scary to think what will happen to us when we stop”

Watch the international correspondent’s “Women of the Revolution” tonight at 8pm on ABC TV and iview or stream it live on the ABC In-Depth YouTube page

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Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, Revolution

News – AU – Police grabbed the flag of 74-year-old Nina What she did next is a riot
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Women of the Revolution