Belarusians post red and white pictures online to defy crackdown of pro-democracy flag

Belarusians post red and white pictures online to defy crackdown of pro-democracy flag
Image: Melita Staniuta via Facebook

2 February 2021

Belarusians have started a new online challenge in response to the government’s crackdown of the red-and-white flag, which has become a visual symbol of the country’s pro-democracy demonstrations that have swept the country since the presidential elections last summer.

Originally devised in 1918 by the Belarusian Democratic Republic, the flag was briefly reinstated between 1991 and 1995, and has been widely used as a symbol of national revival and democracy. Following the General Prosecutor’s threat to declare the flag “extremist”, Belarusian gymnast Melita Staniuta initiated the challenge, asking her followers to recreate the colours of the flag in photos.

Staniuta participated in the challenge by performing a gymnastics stunt, dressed in red against the white snow backdrop. Using her suggested #bchbchallenge hashtag, others posted images of red borscht, children and animals dressed in red in the snow, and other arrangements.

“But what if we organised photos for a flash mob: upload a pic of yourself, friends, or dogs in red in the middle of the snow? #bchbchallenge” Staniuta wrote on her social media profiles. “Maybe they will ban Instagram then? Or wear red 🧣 in snowy weather? Or ordered not to sell red lipstick 💄 to pale girls? Or maybe it will be forbidden to put tomatoes 🍅 in white grocery baskets ??? ... no, let’s just ban tomatoes! And caprese (a dish containing tomatoes and mozzarella) should be removed from the menu of all restaurants!”

Commenting on a red and white traffic sign, one Belarusian joked that “this is terrorism, I think. Call the traffic cone police!”

Tens of thousands of Belarusians took to the streets following presidential elections in August 2020, which saw longstanding president Alexander Lukashenko win his sixth term in power in voting widely condemned as rigged. The demonstrations were met with great police brutality and the arrest of more than 30,000 people.

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