“What is it then, if not torture?”— Imprisoned Belarusian Doctor Describes Horror of Holocaust-like Prison Conditions

© Natalia Fedosenko/TASS/Getty via Amnesty.org

— Trigger warning: Violence, Sexual assault, Asphyxiation —

It had started to rain, so I opened up my umbrella — one that is red and white. The colors of our Revolution Movement. Suddenly, police vans drove up to us and the “men in black” immediately loaded about thirty-two people into their vans. Near the Sports Palace, we were then transferred into paddy wagons fitted with security cameras.

What happened next turned my whole view on ​​life completely upside-down.

We were taken to the Zavodskoy Police Department where we were forced to stand out in the rain, facing a wall for 10–15 minutes — maybe even longer. Then, soaking wet and cold, we were transferred to the assembly hall where there were many young men, beaten to a bloody pulp.

Some had paint on their faces, some with their hair cut short, some were limping. At the entrance to the prison building, just as at the one to the paddy wagon, there lay a red-and-white flag. One woman was careful not to step on the flag — but the guards hit her for it, and the rest of us were punished, too.

Men, women, young, old — they did not care.

So, we were forced to crouch and walk down the corridors like geese. Pensioners who were 60–70 years old were also forced to do this. One woman could not cope, she had joint problems. But the guards did not care. During this, the prison guard shouted:

“Because of you, everyone will crouch this way to walk to the end of the hall.”

What is it then, if not torture?

We were stripped naked, and had our bodies searched—we even had our crotches examined by the male guards. They took away the cross I wore on a chain, and my earrings. I was humiliated, and violated — all within the span of a night.

Then, they took me to a cell. At first there were twelve of us, going into a cell with six bunk-beds made of metal with no mattresses, so we lied in pairs on one small chunk of cold rusty metal. I was wearing a ski suit, so I was fortunate that the beds didn’t hurt me as much as it did the others.

At night they brought in more women — there were twenty-seven of us in this cell made for six people. It very quickly became impossible to breathe. There just was not enough oxygen. We were not fed for more than a day.

At some point during the night, we smelled something — as if a stove had been left on.

Then, everyone started coughing. I quickly felt like I couldn’t breathe.

I developed Laryngospasms — when the vocal cords are completely closed. It was impossible to inhale or exhale.

This is the point when you realize: you are dying.

It is very easy to die from asphyxiation — it only takes a little to do so much damage.

My neighbors started shouting that a person felt really bad — they needed help. But none of the guards had heard because the doors were closed. Or, again, maybe they didn’t care. Just before that, people had been thrown into the corridor between the cells and publicly beaten for no actual reason.

Maybe someone was doused with this gas, and then the excess hit the rest of us in the cell. I’ll never know.

The next evening, they brought me to trial. In the end, my case was sent back for revision, and I was issued a subpoena for November 23rd.

Dr. Irina Markelova

Верым, можам, пераможам!

This account was translated from Russian to English — edited for clarity.



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
The True Tales of Belarus

The True Tales of Belarus

True stories of the horrors happening in Belarus — in 2020