"The Last Dictatorship in the Heart of Europe" oppresses 10 million Europeans.

No wonder the campaign "Free Belarus" is the largest initiative organized by the Young European Federalists (JEF).

It has been going on for years, growing rapidly and getting a wide attention from the media (both in the EU, as well as in Belarus).

History

It started in 2006, just before the Belarusian presidential elections, when campaigners "muzzled" statues in 23 cities, symbolizing the lack of freedom of speech, transparency and democracy.

In 2007 JEF opened up to working with other NGOs (non-governmental organizations) and civil society actors. In this year 60 cities participated.

In 2008 the campaign was entitled: “EUROPE, Give the citizens of Belarus a VOICE!”, in order to emphasis that Europe is directly responsible for taking action against the dictatorship in Belarus. In this year over 70 cities participated.

2009 - over 120 cities.

In 2010 - two actions were organized, the regular one in March and second one in December, before the Presidential elections in Belarus.

According to the “Media monitoring report” there were around 20 coverages of the action in Belarusian media alone.

In 2012 - the campaign became even more well-organized and sustainable with a dedicated website www.free-belarus.eu (visited over 4,000 times in the first month), high-profile patrons, and official partner organisations.

Future

The dictatorship in Belarus is still in place, however the large media attention given to this specific campaign in Belarusian media, and the release of some journalists and political prisoners (also due to the actions of other organizations such as Amnesty International and Liberal Youth), shows that the initiative had an effect, and with a growing popularity and support can achieve even more.

You can view photos of previous years actions on the official Flicker account and on the Free Belarus Facebook page. The intention is to collect pictures from young people all over the world, thus making an important statement, which will be heard by the Belarusian authorities, but also, equally importantly, by the EU institutions and officials.

Below, and here, is a map of the participating cities last year, in 2012:


View Free Belarus 2012 in a larger map

And if there has been no action organized in your area last year, you have the opportunity to take the leadership and initiate it:

"We are preparing our Belaruss Action 2013. Who wants to help with the preparation? Become the member of our Task Force 2013. You can sign up via email at radoslava.serakova@jef.eu, or andrea@jef.eu. Send and email with your name, any contact and the reason you wanna join in. Be the first to work on this succesful JEF Europe Action!"


In addition to JEF, a number of other organizations have on-going campaigns to Free Belarus:

Free Belarus Now

www.freebelarusnow.org 

Bears for Belarus:

www.bearsforbelarus.wordpress.com 


Perhaps this campaign also shows a more open-minded approach of the pro-European organizations in working together, and finally - collaboration between pro-European groups:

"JEF is very happy that the action once again wasn't restricted solely to the members of JEF: many organisations who share our values of freedom and justice joined in and organized their own events or offered their official support . We are proud that this year's [2012] action was endorsed by five MEPs as well as Laureate of the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, Dr. Alaksandr Milinkievich ."


As to the future of the Free Belarus action, JEF will continue to work extensively on this campaign, until the situation is resolved:

"JEF remains dedicated to calling for democracy in Belarus and solidarity with its people. As long as Lukashenka’s dictatorial regime will ignore the human rights and oppress the freedom of Belarusians, JEF will organize its ‘Free Belarus’ actions and speak up for democracy in Belarus!"