This article appeared in the September 09, 2020 edition of the Monitor Daily.

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Why a great grandmother is the symbol of Belarus protests

Dmitri Lovetsky/AP
Opposition activist Nina Bahinskaya (center) struggles with police during a Belarusian opposition rally in Minsk, Belarus, Aug. 26, 2020. Protesters are pushing for the resignation of Belarus' authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko.

The three women leading the Belarus opposition – after what they say were fraudulent elections, on Aug. 9 – have been detained or expelled, or have fled

But Nina Bahinskaya isn’t going anywhere. And therein lies a deeper problem for President Alexander Lukashenko, who’s been in power for 26 years.

You see, Ms. Bahinskaya is a 73-year-old great-grandmother who’s emerged as a symbol of political defiance. She’s been among the more than 100,000 pro-democracy protesters marching in Minsk every weekend since early August.  

This bespectacled woman with short-cropped white hair was captured on video kicking a riot policeman twice her size after he snatched her red-and-white Belarusian flag during an Aug. 26 protest. The video went viral. 

It “was not very good behavior,” she concedes to the BBC, but if “your things are stolen, you won’t just say ‘thank you.’”

Today, people chant “Nina, Nina” when they spot her in Minsk. Women stop her for selfies and call her an inspiration.

Ms. Bahinskaya may be the latest Twitter sensation, but she’s been a thorn in the regime’s side for decades. She tells Radio Free Europe that half her pension is garnished each month to pay the fines she’s incurred from protesting.

“We are not slaves. People must be free,” she tells the BBC. 

So, when you next hear about the massive protests in Belarus – and you will – think of Nina. She represents a quality of resoluteness that isn’t likely to fade.

This article appeared in the September 09, 2020 edition of the Monitor Daily.

Read 09/09 edition
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