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Belarus in Focus:  A human rights photo exhibition speaks louder than words

A young couple embraces behind a line of police officers
Peaceful protests were often dispersed
Exhibition display
A woman stands behind an empty store counter
Empty shelves in shops were one result of a serious economic crisis

A picture is worth a thousand words.  Pictures - or photos in this case - can only begin to describe the difficulties faced by Belarusians seeking only to exercise their basic human rights over the past year. 

Brutal dispersal of peaceful protests, searches and mass repressions, presidential candidates behind bars, tens of other political prisoners, long queues for foreign currency and empty shelves in shops and in markets as a result of a serious economic crisis - these are only a few examples of the Belarusian experience in 2011. All of these were captured in the lenses of independent Belarusian photo reporters. 

The Government of Canada supported the creation of a photo exhibition of 45 such images, now on display in Warsaw, Poland.

The exhibition entitled ‘Belarus in Focus’  features the works of Belarusian reporters whose photographs are generally published in independent Belarusian media or abroad: Dmitry Brushko, Julia Darashkevich, Siarzhuk Hapon, Siarhei Hudzilin, Alexander Vasukovich, and Sergey Vasilyev. Put together by a Belarusian NGO working from Poland and led by Belarusian journalist Yuliya Slutskaya  who barely escaped the regime following the brutal crackdown on the opposition in December 2010, the exhibition depicts the human rights violations in a European country often referred to as “the last dictatorship in Europe.”

While opening the exhibition, photographer Julia Darashkevich said that she wished she could have chosen other photographs than those on display, but unfortunately, those were the ones that reflected the events that keep Belarus in the international spotlight. “Photographers in Belarus are already used to bad news and sometimes it seems that it won’t get any worse, but every year it does’, said Darashevich.

Canada’s Ambassador to Poland Dan Costello offered his congratulations to Julia Darashkevich and her very talented and courageous colleagues for sharing this remarkable display of work.

“This brings home for us here in Warsaw the shockingly difficult and repressive conditions so nearby in neighbouring Belarus. Canada will continue to stand with its like-minded partners here in Poland and elsewhere to condemn the ongoing abuses of the Belarusian regime, most notably in its continued incarceration of political prisoners without access to due process, legal representation, family visits or medical care, and to support any opportunity for progress so that one day Belarusians will be able to exercise their basic human and democratic rights in dignity and without fear.” - Ambassador Costello

Yuliya Slutskaya, Director of the Solidarity with Belarus Information Office, noted that “it is always interesting the way in which these photographs, topics which are so commonplace for Belarusians, really draw foreigners, peoples who live in a different reality and know neither what is happening in Belarus, nor the conditions in which Belarusian journalists work. “

Located right in the centre of Warsaw, near the Old Town, this outdoor exhibition (with English and Polish captions)  serves both the local audience and tourists who visit the Polish capital often unaware of the situation in neighbouring Belarus. The photos will be on display for the coming weeks at 64, Krakowskie Przedmieście street.

The organizers of the exhibition are Solidarity with Belarus Information Office and Press Club Polska, with support from the Canadian Embassy in Poland.


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