Dear Sasha: Your brutal reign will come to an end

A Belarusian journalist calls on President Alexander Lukashenko to quit office
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The Independent Online

The following is from an open letter by Nikolai Khalezin, journalist and co-founder of the Belarus Free Theatre.

Addressing a letter to you in a polite way would be silly. You need to have a modicum of respect for the person to whom you're writing. For that reason, I'm addressing you by the familiar form of your name, Sasha.

You compelled me to write this letter when you put my friends in prison. You did it in a cynical, vile fashion; you led them through all the circles of hell, using torture, humiliation and physical suffering.

I've started thinking a great deal about what has happened to my country and its people. I think about why it has become so unbearably nauseating to live in Belarus – a country that once felt so cosy and comfortable.

My thoughts always return to the same picture: you, standing on the rostrum in your fancy military uniform, saluting a parade of lorries proudly carrying locally produced flowery toilets and gas stoves. Of course, we must not forget about those cannibals who stand by your side, those thugs from the forces of law and order, the thieving brats, the servile bureaucrats, the downtrodden "teachers and doctors" that you praise so much precisely because they are downtrodden – and the people who simply let it all happen.

All of them have each laid a brick in the construction of the rickety barn that you are building on the site of a country that ought at least to be successful by now. They've all played their part and for this they will sooner or later have to answer – some to the law, some to their children and some to their own consciences. But you are the guilty one.

My two daughters (one is aged 12, the other 17) have never known any other head of state. They have grown up under you, just as I grew up under Brezhnev. But the difference between us is that I didn't know another kind of life was possible. They do.

You have taught Belarusians to hate. You have made them hate the opposition, Europeans, Russians and themselves. You tried to deceive the real world by creating a story about a successful country, rather than actually creating a successful country.

But everything comes to an end, Sasha. Your inglorious reign will, too. You may be able to hang on for a bit by selling off the country or by relying on the truncheons of the dim-witted forces of law and order.

They still haven't realised that many of them are going to have to learn how to be "persons accused of a criminal act", exactly the kind of person they used to guard. Yet each day you remain in power is going to become more excruciating for you and more terrifying for those around you. The longer you continue to try everyone's patience, the more brutal the denouement will be. So go, Sasha. Go, while you still can, without panic and hysteria. Dictators have only three ways to escape an uprising: emigration, the grave or the dock.