A new act is being introduced to parliament: Jude Law performing with Belarus Free Theater.
Belarus Free Theater is a company that is banned in their home country for speaking out against Lukashenko's regime. Together they are appealing to British politicians to help free political prisoners and end oppression in Belarus, Europe’s last dictatorship.
At a rally before the show, another star supporter, Kevin Spacey, described why the artists have been targeted.
[Kevin Spacey, Artistic Director, Old Vic Theatre]:
“Even dictators know that the artists are the ones who can best speak for a nation's hopes and its future and its dreams. And it is the artists who with sweat and blood and through dance and music and performance and words can damage tyrants through wisdom and truth."
The performance is introduced by Oscar-winning writer Sir Tom Stoppard.
[Sir Tom Stoppard, Oscar Winning Writer]:
“Having an open mind and expressing yourself is not the prerogative of people who call themselves politicians. So whether you are a baker or a poet the world is yours to comment on.”
Belarus Free Theatre cofounder, Nikolai Khalezin, plays alongside Jude Law. The play recalls Khalesin’s experiences as a prisoner of conscience in a KGB prison.
Khalezin, his wife Natalia Koliada and other members of the company were arrested again last December. Over three hundred people and seven presidential candidates were arrested at a peaceful rally on the day of the presidential elections. Over 40 people are still imprisoned.
[Natalia Koliada, Director and Cofounder, Belarus Free Theatre]:
"If you imagine a situation where you have friends and suddenly you don't have a chance to call anyone because every phone you dial you understand that this person is in jail."
Irina Bogdanova is the cofounder of a victim support coalition, Free Belarus Now. Her brother, Presidential candidate Andrei Sannikov was arrested in December and is still in prison. Bogdanova is calling on the UK government to act.
[Irina Bogdanova, Cofounder Free Belarus Now]:
“We do feel very sympathetic with people of Libya and Bahrain and our heart is going out to people in Japan with all these disasters but we are people as well. We are the whole nation of 10 million people who are suffering and who are basically imprisoned by this person and it is in the power of European politicians and British politicians to change it. It's the last dictatorship in Europe - it's about time to get rid of it!”
Index on Censorship last week honored the Belarus prisoners of conscience with a Special Commemoration Award.
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