17th Berlin Freedom Speech
Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya: "Tyranny is like cancer".
"Every morning when I wake up, I think about the people in prison and ask myself: what can I do today to free them?" said Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, chairwoman of the United Transitional Cabinet and Belarusian opposition leader, at the 17th Berlin Freedom Speech in Berlin at the invitation of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom. She has been fighting for a free Belarus from exile in Lithuania for years.
Since the mass protests following the rigged 2020 presidential election, the regime of Alyaksandr Lukashenka has been persecuting opposition forces in Belarus harder than ever. Tsikhanouskaya called on the international community to show solidarity with the Belarusian opposition.
"Belarusians have been denied freedom for so long that they have almost forgotten what it feels like to be free," Tsikhanouskaya explained. "Help us hold the regime's scissors to account. They need to know that every crime will be documented and punished. We must demand the tribunal not only for Putin, but also for his puppet Lukashenka. We must put an end to impunity. We don't want revenge, we want justice."
"The fight for freedom is a global struggle"
Tsikhanouskaya cautioned that the freedom of Belarus is a basic requirement for Ukraine to win the war against Russia. "A free Belarus will be a great help for Ukraine and the strongest sanction against Putin." She called for continued support for the freedom struggle of Belarus and Ukraine - in defense of Europe's future. "Tyranny is like cancer. If it is not completely removed, it returns and is even more aggressive than before." In doing so, she stressed that the fight for freedom is a global struggle that cannot be won alone.
Ukrainians fight for their freedom every day. She said that she is proud that Belarusians are fighting other side.
Prof. Dr. Karl-Heinz Paqué, Chairman of the Board of the Friedrich Nauman Foundation for Freedom, in the opening of the 17th Berlin Freedom Speech, praised the commitment of Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya and her comrades-in-arms Veranica Tsapkala and Maria Kalesnikava to a free and democratic Belarus. "In response to Lukashenka's blatant support for Russia's war in Ukraine, you have initiated an anti-war movement and called on your countrymen to oppose Russia's invasion of Ukraine. This outreach is essential because Lukashenka's Belarus is acting as an extension of the Kremlin in this war," Paqué said. For him, it is clear that the West has reacted too hesitantly to the inhumane policies of the Russian and Belarusian regimes.
"We must learn our lessons from this failed policy and stand up more firmly for our values when they come under pressure - we owe that to the people of our eastern neighbors."
In the subsequent discussion with Renata Alt MdB, Chairwoman of the Committee on Human Rights and Humanitarian Aid of the German Bundestag, and Sabine Adler, Eastern Europe expert, the role of Belarus in ending the Ukraine war was discussed.
Renata Alt emphasized the importance of supporting the people of Eastern European countries, in particular, when protests begin: "We must understand that it is five to twelve. We as democrats must all stand together and defend democracy and freedom."
Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, Deputy Chairwoman of the Board and former German Minister of Justice, paid tribute to Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya as an icon of resistance: "Belarus belongs on the political agenda every day. It is important to hear from you, dear Ms. Tsikhanouskaya, how the people of Belarus are doing." Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger emphasized that the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom supports Tsikhanouskaya's work to create publicity and to keep Belarus on the political agenda.
Since 2007, personalities from politics, science or culture have made their weighty contribution to the freedom discourse in the Speeches on Freedom. Previous speakers at the foundation's annual spring event at the Brandenburg Gate have included Udo di Fabio, Heinrich August Winkler, Joachim Gauck, Paul Nolte, Peter Sloterdijk, Karl Cardinal Lehmann, Gabor Steingart, Mark Rutte, Zhanna Nemzowa, Ryszard Petru, Christian Lindner, Timothy Garton Ash, Werner Hoyer, Ahmad Mansour, Lars Feld, Kaja Kallas.