#DemocracyUnderPressure: breaking the fourth wall

, by Trad. da Davide Emanuele Iannace, Diletta Alese

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#DemocracyUnderPressure: breaking the fourth wall
Protests in Minsk, the capital of Belarus, in September 2020. Photo credits: Homoatrox

#democracyunderpressure turns 15 this year. The campaign was born in 2006, as “Free Belarus Action”, to condemn Alexander Lukašėnko’s regime, for a long time defined as “the last dictatorship in Europe”. In 2014, the campaign became “Democracy Under Pressure”, a permanent political tool to monitor and denounce the violations of democracy in Europe and in the world. And yet, on this 15th anniversary, we are still condemning the same regime – among the many other distortions of our time – from which it all began. History, sometimes, moves very slowly.

The action week of “Democracy Under Pressure” will take place from 18th March to 25th March. In the meantime, the Young European Federalists (JEF) tried to create a broader framework of action, to start mobilizing the members in response to the more recent political events. While I was trying to find the best way to describe the campaign, I instinctively thought of an expression which belongs to cinema and theatre: “break the fourth wall”. The wall we are trying to break, as young European federalists, is not the one between actor and spectator. It is the wall dividing us from the ones suffering from injustice every day. A wall making us feel powerless, distant, alone, and that apparently seems indestructible. Only by fighting this illusion of distance can we build the foundations to reverse these self-fulfilling prophecies and write a different future.

The violations happening in other countries affect us directly, because a world without rights is a world full of contradictions in which we do not want to live. "Uniting Europe to unite the world” is perhaps the message that most effectively sums up the federalist commitment. And this is Democracy Under Pressure: the hope to “speak up for those who are silenced” – as the historical slogan of the campaign says – and the constant fight, year after year, for democracy and rule of law in Europe and in the world.

What we can do to sustain the oppositions in Belarus?

JEF Europe welcomed the appeal of Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, leader of Belarusian opposition, to take action on 7th February, the international day of solidarity for Belarus. The call to action is to write as many letters as possible to Belarusian political prisoners. We hope that many will spend few minutes of their time writing letters, taking inspirations from the templates shared in our Infokit for sections – in which you will also find the list of political prisoners. With this gesture – apparently so small – we can become part of the life of people who right now are paying for their unfair punishments.

Let’s imagine the sound of hundreds of letters arriving at the gates of Belarusian prisons. Let’s imagine the hope of those who will know that the eyes of the entire international community are right on them, on the future of democracy in Belarus and in the world. Few and simple words, and yet important ones. Thousands of words, today, can make the difference for those who had the courage to stand up.

What we can do to support the rights of those who are taking part in the protests in Russia?

In this case, JEF was invited to act by Vesna, a youth association actively working to affirm freedom and democracy in the country, to pressure European universities to condemn their Russian equivalents, which are threatening to expel – or already expelled – the students who joined the protests for the liberation of Aleksej Navalny.

Russian university institutions are part of the European Higher Education Area, instituted by the Bologna process. The Magna Charta Universitatum resulted from this process and over nine hundred universities have subscribed to it. The Charter highlights the role of the university as “autonomous institutions in the heart of society”, “morally and intellectually independent from any political and economical power and authority”. A place in which “freedoms of its students are safeguarded”. Unfortunately, reality is far from these ideal references. We hope that sections of young federalists all over Europe, also in synergy with other students’ associations, can ask as many universities as possible to take a stand.

We can break, together, the fourth wall.

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