Belarusian Organization: Better a Dictator than Gay? Not really.

Aug 09, 2013, 08:19 ET from Belarusians in Exile

NEW YORK, Aug. 9, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Move over, RuPaul. Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenka is the most fabulous drag queen of them all in a new cartoon that shows him flaunting a little more cleavage and eyeliner than is usually the case.

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The image is not, alas, drawn from real life, but highlights the authoritarian ruler's clampdown on LGBT rights in the former Soviet nation, often called the last dictatorship in Europe. It has been released by Belarusians in Exile, a New York-based nonprofit founded by Belarusians forced to leave their country because of human rights violations and persecution. They are calling for increased sanctions against the pariah state.

"The cartoons might be funny, but we are actually trying to bring attention to a very serious matter – continuous violations of human rights in the middle of Europe. We believe that the EU should stop doing business with the state-owned companies in Belarus and expand targeted sanctions against the main sources of revenue for the dictatorial regime of Alexander Lukashenka," says Ilya Lushnikov, BIE spokesperson.

Although homosexuality was legalized in Belarus in 1994, the government has clamped down on gay rights and has banned or broken up several Pride gatherings. After the German foreign minister, the first openly gay man to hold that position, criticized Lukashenka's authoritarian tendencies last year, the president replied "Better a dictator than gay." The new cartoon imagines what Lukashenka might look like if he were more open to his inner diva.

With this and other specially commissioned cartoons, Belarusians in Exile hopes to prompt the international community to step up sanctions against Belarus, which still receives vast infusions of cash from West European companies despite legislation by the EU to restrict business that benefits the Lukashenka regime. The cartoons are released under Creative Commons and are free to use for the media and bloggers alike.

Belarusian companies export mineral fuels, chemicals and other items to countries such as the UK - in 2010 the trade turnover between the two nations amounted to $1.2 billion and the UK was Belarus' eighth-largest trade partner worldwide. There is evidence that profits derived from these exports end up in the Belarus treasury and directly finance the government.

"Sanctions against Belarus are the most effective way to make Lukashenka respect human rights and release political prisoners," says Lushnikov.

Ilya Lushnikov
Belarusians in Exile
+1 (646) 583-2525


SOURCE Belarusians in Exile