Over the almost 23-year reign of President Alexander Lukashenko — a throwback to the Soviet-era — the people of Belarus have had much to protest. Many brave individuals have marched against the oppressive policies of the Lukashenko regime in Belarus at great personal risk in recent years.
Belarus moved recently to enforce its annual $250 tax on individuals who work for less than 183 days per year. The tax, colloquially called “the tax on social parasites,” triggered a new wave of protests beginning in February. On March 13, 2017, James Carstensen of Conservative News Service reported that Lukashenko partially backed down in the face of the initial wave of protests, agreeing to suspend the implementation of the “social parasite tax” for one year [link].1
However, Lukashenko's mild concession did not satisfy many of the protesters. Carstensen noted that on March 12, 2017, after Lukashenko's concession, protesters in four cities took to the street to demand Lukashenko's resignation. Some, including Pavel Severinets, an opposition leader, were detained by the regime for their role in the protests. Journalists who endeavored to cover the marches were fined for “'taking part' in 'unsanctioned' rallies.”
The article reports that Lukashenko justified the tax by stating that an unemployed person “is a future criminal.” However, finding employment in Lukashenko's Belarus is perhaps easier said than done for many. Carstensen notes that Belarus's economy is in the midst of a severe recession, and that the average salary in Belarus has declined by 40% since mid-2014. The article notes that Lukashenko is moving to reduce Belarus's economic dependence on Russia to improve its economic situation. However, when one considers that one of Lukashenko's foremost credentials prior to rising to power in post-independence Belarus is having run Soviet collective farms, one must consider the possibility that there are more foundational issues at play than those that have occurred recently.
American colonists coined the slogan “no taxation without representation” in the buildup to the American Revolution. The immediate cause of the recent wave of protests was the imposition of the absurd “social parasite tax.” However, many in Belarus are not only marching against one nonsensical tax, but also for the principle that they are a people who deserve representation and liberty of they are to be taxed.
The following are pictures from the protests courtesy of Wikipedia:
To learn more about repression in Belarus, please see a blog that we published back in 2012 [see blog].
Furthermore, a quick glance at our “Success Stories” section here at myattorneyusa.com shows that we have represented many clients from Belarus in asylum cases. Most notably, I successfully represented an asylum applicant from Belarus on appeal before the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in the published decision, Boika v. Holder, 727 F.3d 735 (7th Cir. 2013) [PDF version] [see success story] [see Wiki]. Please see our success stories in the Matter of T.K. (2015) [see article] and In Re K,P, BIA, December 2014 [see article].