of the harassment of women by government authorities and inducement in committing suicide in Belarus
1. Chapter 1. Summary. Harassment of active women by government authorities and inducement of them to commit or attempt to commit suicide.
2. Chapter 2. The case of human rights defender Yana Polyakova (Soligorsk). Successful inducement of the human rights activist to commit suicide.
3. Chapter 3. Harassment of women and inducing them to the suicidal state in the year 2017. The case of the journalist Larisa Shchirakova (Gomel).
4. Chapter 4. Harassment of women that ended with suicides of their relatives in 2015-2016 before the launch of the campaign of “Our House”. The case of Irina Motznaya (Klimovichi).
Chapter 1. Summary. Harassment of active women by government authorities and inducement of them to commit or attempt to commit suicide.
The hardest one among all the forms of repressions, that we had to face, is the harassment of active women by government authorities with the aim of destroying the woman and, ideally, inducing her or her relatives to commit suicide.
Sadly, sometimes they are capable of doing this.
This monitoring has collected some cases of government harassment of women that either ended tragically or could end tragically, as women were induced to a nervous breakdown and expressed suicidal intentions because of such harassment. We do not mention all the known cases because it is too much information. We have picked out the most particular situations of Harassment of Belarusian women for their active position.
These cases can be confirmed by other non-governmental human rights organizations. Unfortunately, each organization deals with its case and does not see the whole system. “Our House” sees the system and common points of these cases. Moreover, independent media of Belarus actively wrote about these cases.
The case of Yana Polyakova and inducing her to commit suicide by security agencies can be confirmed by such human rights organizations as “Legal Assistance to the Population”, BHC, Spring, “Solidarity”, palitviazni.info. Student Council, Union of Belarusians of the World “Batkovschina”. Political parties: BNF, BSDP “Narodnaja Gramada”. People: Nikolay Statkevich, Vyacheslav Siuchyk, Oleg Volchek, Olga Kazulina (daughter of the former presidential candidate Aleksandr Kazulin), Valentin Stefanovich, Lyudmila Gryaznova, Zinaida Timoshk, Valery Shchukin, Boris Khamaida, Artur Finkevich, Andrey Kim. Media: Belapan, tut.by, charter97.org, Radio Liberty, the newspaper Slonimskaya, naviny.by, the newspaper “Belorusy i Rynok”, “Narodnaya Volya”, “Nasha Niva”, “Solidarity”, “Euroradio”, Polish radio “Polonium”. The documentary film-“Murder on the eve of Spring” by the famous Belarusian director Olga Nikolaychik was dedicated to the inducement of Yana Polyakova to commit suicide. This film was screened at the EHU and at the international film festival “Tranzit”.
The case of Larisa Shchirakova. Harassment of Larisa Shchirakova can be confirmed by BAJ (Belarusian Association of Journalists). Organizations: REI (trade union). People: Leonid Sudalenko, Nikolai Statkevich. Media: Belsat, Euroradio, Radio Liberty, Novy Chas, Solidarity, Radio Racyja, Mediakritika.
The case of Irina Motznaya. The suicide of Irina Motznaya’s husband and son and Harassment of her can be confirmed by BCD (Belarusian Christian Democracy Party). Media: Belapan, Komsomolskaya Pravda, Radio Racyja, Belarusian Reporter, tut.by, Radio Liberty, Solidarity, Narodnaya Volya, Belorusskaya Pravda.
There is a common thing that distinguishes the harassment by government authorities from an attempt to induce active women to commit suicide:
1. Harassment by government authorities is always aimed at destroying woman’s personality, her life, inducing her to a nervous breakdown and exhaustion.
2. Harassment is always proceeded by means of state media or social networks, where lies and insulting statements are spread with the intention of humiliating and demoralizing a woman.
3. Pressure is exerted on relatives to put destructive pressure on a woman, to suppress her will, to break her as a person.
4. As a rule (but not always), all women, who were victims of harassment by government authorities, are from the province, and not from Minsk.
5. The sense of harassment is to induce a woman to the state of “scorched earth”, so that she commits suicide, loses her mind, dies of a heart attack, or stroke.
Chapter 2. The case of Yana Polyakova. Successful inducement of the human rights activist to commit suicide.
On March 3, 2009, the court of Soligorsk district sentenced a criminal case against human rights defender Yana Polyakova, who was found guilty under the part 2 of Art. 400 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus – “a deliberately false denunciation”. She was accused of a false denunciation of a police officer and sentenced to 2.5 years (judge – Alexander Buravtsov). In addition, she had to pay 1 million rubles to the district inspector Pugachev, who was recognized as a victim by the court.
In September 2008, the human rights activist Jana Poliakova reported that the police had detained her several times for her opposition activities. It was also reported that the woman was beaten in the department and even once her arm was nearly broken.
The Harassment of Yana Polyakova began after she became a member of the initiative group of Olga Kazulina – the daughter of former presidential candidate Aleksandr Kazulin – at the parliamentary elections in summer-autumn 2008.
Yana Polyakova considered herself innocent. She told that the district inspector had beaten her, forcing her to renounce Kazulina, and to sign a fictitious document on non-participation in political activities.
In addition, since August 2008, the KGB called Yana Polyakova with requests to come there, but the activist refused.
On March 7, 2009, the verdict of the court entered into legal force; Yana had to go to the colony.
At 6 am on March 7, 2009, Yana Polyakova’s mother found her daughter hanging in their house.
Yana cooperated with a number of human rights organizations, including Solidarity, Our House, BHC and many others.
Oleg Volchek, a human rights activist and head of the organization “Legal Assistance to the Population,” said that it is necessary to open criminal proceedings in the case of “inducing Yana Polyakova to commit suicide.”
Valentin Stefanovich from “Vesna” commented on the criminal case against Yana Polyakova:
“I cannot recall any case from my human rights activities of over 10 years when we managed to initiate criminal proceedings against police officers for exceeding their official authority against citizens, although there was a huge quantity of such incidents. As a rule, militiamen subjected activists of the democratic movement to violence. Such system, the full dependence of the courts and the prosecutor’s office make practically impossible for a person to pursue the truth. There is no control over the law-enforcement agencies by civil society. In regions, the situation is even more complicated, there operates a close “bundle” of law enforcement agencies and executive authorities.”
The reaction of the society concerning the inducement of Yana to commit suicide was so stormy that the Orthodox Church was frightened and the head of the Belarusian Orthodox Church Metropolitan Filaret personally gave a blessing for the Yana’s funeral service in the Orthodox Church. Although, this is generally forbidden by the canons of the Orthodox Church for those who commit suicide.
1. Yana did not have love heartbreak, money debts or complex family life. There were no domestic grounds. The human rights defender could not withstand the pressure of government authorities.Why do we consider this case to be the inducement by security forces to commit suicide?
2. The Harassment of Yana started in state media, in particular in the newspaper “Sovetskaya Belorussiya”, an insulting article written in the language of hater and containing libel against Yana came out the day before her suicide. After Yana’s suicide, the human rights activist Oleg Volchek sued the newspaper “Sovetskaya Belorussiya” for libel.
3. The court proved the cases of late-night phone calls from the prosecutor’s office, which very exhausted Yana and imposed additional stress on her.
4. The initiation of a criminal case for a complaint of violence by a police officer is a dangerous precedent for the entire human rights community.
“Our House” has a personal motivation not to lose sight of the case of Yana Polyakova. Unfortunately, like all other human rights organizations, we were only third-party observers of this case and did not interfere in the process. In fact, Yana was struggling with repression and Harassment on her own. On March 6, 2009, at 01:00 a.m. Valery Shchukin, chairperson of the Council of “Our House”, called Olga Karach to say that he had just talked to Yana and she told him that she had decided to commit suicide. He asked Olga Karach to call and talk to her immediately. However, Olga Karach was very tired after the trip, Valery literally woke her up. And she said to him: “Valery, do not invent, I understand that Yana is in a difficult situation, but if a person decides to commit suicide, he/she will never say it out loud.” She put the phone down and went to sleep. At 6 a.m., five hours after this conversation, Yana hanged herself. The same situation occurred to Oleg Volchek, he talked to her on the eve of the suicide and still blames himself that he was not convincing enough during the conversation. Up to now, Olga Karach feels a very very big burden and guilt for not calling and talking to Yana that night. Perhaps this call would not have saved Yana, but 7 years have passed and it is still very hard for Olga Karach. It is a heavyweight in the heart.
The entire human rights community was not serious about the situation and, later on, this turned to a hard lesson for everyone. Therefore, now if a female activist tells us that she is very tired of repression and wants to commit suicide, we cannot ignore such a terrible signal. Especially, if an activist woman from the region, a single fighter, as was Yana, says this. The last lesson was too hard for us to check if the woman brings her idea to the end. By the way, after all the checks Yana’s case was included in the alternative report of CEDAW Committee.5. Yana Polyakova hanged herself three hours before the verdict of the court entered into legal force. That is, there was the inducement to commit suicide.
Yana’s mother did not suffer the suicide of her daughter (and the fact that she took her daughter out of the noose with her own hands) and lost her mind. She died last year in a madhouse.
Chapter 3. Harassment of women and inducing them to the suicidal state in the year 2017.
Unfortunately, the authorities made their own poor conclusions from the suicide of Yana Polyakova and realized that this can be done with any woman in Belarus and there are great chances that the woman will not be able to stand it and will crack up.
“Our House” gives examples of women who were persecuted by governmental authorities in 2017, who as a result of this had a nervous breakdown and who told us about their suicidal intentions (there are interviews). We do not want to examine if they commit suicide in case if we do not help them. After the suicide of Yana Polyakova, this is a huge responsibility. Nevertheless, we are proud of not only the fact that they did not commit suicide but also of the fact that after our support program and psychological assistance they recovered and did not leave their civil activity and, even more, doubled it.
Larisa Shchirakova. She is a journalist of “Belsat” from Gomel, more than 12 protocols for her journalistic activities were compiled during the year 2017.
The fines that were awarded to Larissa only in 2017 amounted to more than 25 million Belarusian rubles by old pre-denominational rubles (this is approximately 12.300 euros). The police detained Larisa on falsified criminal cases, for example, charges of stealing a car. Social security tried to take away her 10-year-old son Svyatoslav.
Unfortunately, the pressure on Larisa’s family led to the fact that Larisa’s mother broke down and essentially betrayed her daughter by saying that she does not want to have a “criminal” daughter (although Larisa’s entire crime was that she was making reports for independent TV). Larisa was so tired of Harassment and harassment by government authorities that she came to one of the courts with a noose around her neck (a dangerous sign).
In an interview to the Radio “Racyja”, Larisa Shchirakova said a very dangerous phrase: “I held the fight as much as I could” and admitted that she could not stand the pressure anymore.
We were frightened of suicide and began to help her, including the offer to find a psychologist and provide psychological help. Larisa began to look for a good psychologist, and this was the beginning of more Harassment of her on social networks. The KGB became more active and started making offensive posters, where it was explicitly stated that Larisa is ugly, old, tortured, etc., including scoffing at Larisa and comparing her with state leaders (by playing the situation in the way that they support Lukashenko and they are doing well, but you are against him and your life is sucking). In addition, the intelligence services broke into Larisa’s personal account and her personal photos were sent to all relatives with offensive comments. We realized that the KGB would immediately attack any Belarusian psychologist in such a situation, so we found a Lithuanian psychologist for Larisa, and began to support her. How else can this be called, if not a purposefully conduct of intelligence services to induce a woman to commit suicide?
Chapter 4. Case of harassment of women that ended with suicides of their relatives in 2015-2016 before the launch of the campaign of “Our House” “Non-Children Case”
We cite one of the cases (unfortunately, not the only one) when the harassment of women by government authorities resulted in the suicides of their relatives. All these cases took place before the launch of “Our House” campaign “Nedetskoye Delo” (“Non-Children Case”), however, this served as the reason that “Our House” got distracted from local budgets and local councils (that it, in fact, was engaged in) and began to actively fight repression against women in Belarus.
The case of Irina Motznaya (Klimovichi), the adoptive mother of 7 children.
Irina Motznaya was an adoptive parent for 15 years. In 2001, after changes in the legislation on guardianship, she was offered to open a foster family. As foster parents, Motznys have been receiving predominantly positive characteristics. The family of Motznys was considered as one of the best ones in Klimovichi district.
On June 6, 2014, being unable to withstand the threats and Harassment by government authorities, the husband of Irina – Victor committed suicide.The harassment by officials and pressure on the family began.
On July 25, Irina tried to escape together with her children by car from Klimovichi, but was detained by police officers and charged with “disobeying the lawful order or request of an official in the performance of their official duties”, police handcuffed her 19-year-old son Vitaly Motzny. We want to note that if the person is dragged out of the car with the children, it is unlikely that he/she will be happy about it and will behave cold-bloodedly. At a minimum, you will resist, especially children who are not aware of legal norms, and simply see that these police officers take them away from their mother.
According to the authorities, Irina Motznaya was detained because of trying to take control of her former adopted children’s destinies, as she was not their adoptive mother anymore.
In late August, authorities filed criminal charges of “abuse of the guardianship rights” against Irina Motznaya for an attempt to escape with children from the city.
Irina Motznaya’s lawyer Vyacheslav Levonenko stated that children were taken away by the guardianship authorities illegally. “The tutorship and guardianship agencies drafted an act that the guardian does not want to give away the children on a voluntary basis. They had to bring a case to the court to remove children from the adoptive family. This was not done this way. Instead, the police officers simply took the children away by force,” said Motznaya’s attorney. At the same time, Vyacheslav Levonenko refers to the resolution of the plenum of the Supreme Court of September 26, 2002, No. 7 “On judicial practice in cases of deprivation of parental rights”, which regulates the process of taking away children in similar situations.
The Harassment of the family of Motznys began in the state newspapers, in particular, negative publications with a distortion of facts followed in the newspaper “Vecherny Mogilev”, known for its hate speech, calls to shoot homeless people and homophobic statements.
On November 6, at a news conference in Minsk, Irina Motznaya reported that the investigative authorities had supplemented the criminal case against her with two more compounds – part 2 of Art. 154 (tortures committed against a minor) and part 1 of Art. 183 (restriction of personal freedom of a person) of the Criminal Code.
According to Motznaya, the investigative authorities interpreted as a case of torture a bruise on one of the adopted daughters (which could be the result of being pulled out of the car by police officers) and an old scar on the finger of other adopted daughter. The fact of restriction of freedom was detected in the case when Motznaya put the child in a corner.
On 1 December, during the trial, Irina was detained and taken to the DSoIA, where the police planned to keep her all night, but the woman had a hypertensive crisis around 21.00 and was taken to the hospital by the “ambulance”.
On December 20, 2014, Irina was sentenced to 4 years of the colony, where she is up to date.
On June 12, 2015, Irina Motznaya’s adopted son Alexander Pugachev, being unable to withstand the pressure and left face-to-face with the government system, committed suicide in the dormitory in Minsk.
“Our House” is very tired from the horrible cases and women “burned” by repression. Some women did not withstand the harassment by government authorities and went insane. We do not mention them in this monitoring, but we plan to make a separate monitoring of these cases.
This campaign is the most difficult emotionally among all our campaigns over the past 12 years. We understand those human rights organizations that do not want to deal with the topic of repression against women in Belarus. The topic is very heavy and morally exhausting. It is much simpler and easier to observe elections, for example. However, we can no longer and do not want to remain indifferent observers who simply record repressions. The cost of the observation from the outside is a human life that is a too high price to pay for.
Unfortunately, we are not aware of all the cases of state harassment and inducement to commit suicide. Many of them remain “in the shadows” and are not known to human rights organizations. However, the created system of state Harassment of active women in Belarus comes to the very tragic ending in situations when these women are left alone and without the support of human rights defenders. We do not want to examine the limits of their patience, whether they will commit a suicide or will stay alive. This is a very cynical and inhuman experimentation on human beings.
Women in the regions, ordinary activists, human rights activists, journalists have neither voice nor rostrum. They have no one to complain about Harassment by government authorities, their repression is not visible and nobody cares. Sometimes suicide is the only and terrible chance for such a woman or her child to draw attention to the abnormal situation that exists today in Belarus. Let us together create other opportunities for them to talk about Harassment by government authorities than to commit suicide. We need these women alive; we need their potential and readiness to work for democratic changes in Belarus.