A mass rally against a tax on unemployment is scheduled to take place March 15 in Minsk, the capital of Belarus, amid signs that authorities are losing patience for such public expressions of discontent.
Dozens of activists, journalists and politicians associated with the protest movement have been taken into custody in recent days, with some sentenced to administrative detention. The civil society organization Nash Dom (Our House) said the clampdown has been especially harsh on what it described as “socially active women,” as well as female journalists.
The upheaval is a response to a presidential decree, titled “On Prevention of Social Dependency.” Although on the books for over a year, authorities only recently tried to enforce the statute.
Authorities earlier announced that they would suspend the implementation of the decree until 2018, but that announcement has not appeared to slowed the protest movement’s momentum.
Rights groups, along with US and European Union officials, have expressed concern over the government crackdown.
During the initial weeks of protests, authorities were slow to take action against participants, apparently not wanting to disrupt improving relations between Minsk and the EU.
President Alexander Lukashenko’s recent dalliance with EU leaders occurred against a background of strained relations with his chief ally, Russia. Observers say this tension was connected to the Euromaidan Revolution in Kyiv, and Russia’s subsequent annexation of Crimea and its meddling in eastern Ukraine.
Three of Central Asia’s republics, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, border Afghanistan along a frontier agreed to by Russia and Britain during the late 19th century. The border deal was an outcome of the so-called Great Game.
The Pamir Mountains served as a natural boundary between two old empires – Chinese and Russian. Stretching for hundreds of miles, and reaching an elevation of 7,500 meters (24,000 feet), the Pamirs are so remote that, even in this era of globalization, few travelers ever reach this corner of the world.