DEAR First Minister,

My name is Irina McLean and, as a citizen of Scotland, I need your help.

In 1996, when I was 17, my parents made the decision for us to leave Belarus. Back then, I was idealistic and naive, hoping that Aleksandr Lukashenko’s dictatorship would not last. 24 years later, I am crying my eyes out, not knowing how to help my fellow Belarusians to get rid of his tyranny.

11 years ago I came to Scotland and fell in love with it. Scotland had everything I was longing for – kind people, person-centred policies, a human rights approach to everything in society and, of course, hopes for independence. My children consider themselves Scottish but are both very proud of their Belarusian heritage.

READ MORE: Belarus: Thousands protest as Alexander Lukashenko claims victory

I am sure you are aware of what has been happening in Belarus over the past several months in the build-up to the presidential elections. The two leading contenders are behind bars for falsified crimes. The only survivor of this terror is Svyatlana Tsihanouskaya, who stepped in for her jailed husband Siarhei Tsihanousky. The election happened on August 9 and every exit poll (including those around the world) indicated that Svyatlana won. Despite this, the official Belarusian polls shamefully presented an unlawful and corrupt result where Aleksandr Lukashenko was announced as the winner and is to continue to be the president for the 27th year in a row.

Following this, on Sunday night the people of Belarus came out onto the streets and avenues of the country. They came out to protect their votes which they gave to Svyatlana, they came out to express their disappointment with the government which is built on lies and held together by corruption and bribery.

Belarusians are known to be the most tolerant and calm of all the Slavic nations. Not anymore. People’s patience has vanished, they don’t want to be the laughing stock of the whole of Europe anymore. They want their children to live in a free and democratic society where every life matters.

Unfortunately, recent two days have taken one life (could be more) and left many injured. The violence and unlawful detentions of innocent citizens clearly demonstrates the violation of human rights and basic freedoms, where those detained are being kept in unbearable conditions and with no contact or support allowed (videos of the street attacks are available).

The country operates in a regime of partial shutdown – the internet is being switched off (for the whole country) for 12-14 hours a day. Many reporters and journalists are detained or have disappeared. The police are using weapons that have been embargoed in the EU (gas canisters). This is just a small list of what is happening. Official Belarusian sources blame Western countries (the UK included) for collaboration with the opposition.

Yesterday Svyatlana was forced to leave Belarus and seek refuge in Lithuania. It is suspected that she was threatened and that her children might be in danger, as well as her husband (who is still behind the bars) receiving poor treatment in jail.

Dear First Minister, I am appealing to you as a powerful and wise leader who took Scotland through the pandemic as no other leader managed. This situation, where 17-year-olds are being beaten in front of their parents, cannot be tolerated. All Belarusian citizens are standing for is a free and fair election. The level of violence and terror affecting the country now is not acceptable in 2020.

I am pledging for justice. As a mother, social worker, researcher in social care, NHS employee and a citizen of a democratic country, I am asking you to get involved. You have a position of strength as a recognised and respected politician and leader whose opinion is listened to in many international arenas. The West is watching and saying very little. There are a few statements which look like a tick-box exercise (including the one from the UK’s Prime Minister), but very little action at all. This silence is scary and dangerous.

On behalf of fellow Belarusian citizens, I am asking for your support with:

• Finding a resolution to formally legalise (in line with the Belarusian constitution) the true presidential election results where Svyatlana Tsihanouskaya received over 70% of the vote.

• Asking to free up more than 3000 peaceful protesters (some of those are under 18) who are being kept in detention.

• Sanction police and government members who are implicated in the abuse of Belarusian’s constitutional and human rights.

My son, Nikita McLean (age 15, S4 student) has been involved in composing this letter with me and is fully supportive of this appeal too.

Irina McLean
via email