ISCOS campaigns for peaceful societies that respect human rights

With “Free Belarus”, and the campaign dedicated to migrant workers in Italy “I walk the line”, the Italian labour movement shows once again that solidarity and promoting peaceful and inclusive societies is both an international and national matter.

“I have been in prison twice for showing my solidarity with those struggling in my country. The first time, my crime was to wear red and white bracelets, the colours of the Belarusian flag before Lukashenko replaced it with the current one”. These are the words of Yuliya Yukhno of “Supolka”, the association of Belarusians in Italy. Her story is that of many other citizens, who for years have opposed the dictatorship of Alexander Lukashenko. In face of the increasing repression of the regime, Yuliya considers herself lucky to have managed to escape to Italy.

In recent months, Yuliya, and other Belarusian dissidents, have been bringing their testimony to the congresses of the Italian trade union CISL thanks to the facilitation of ISCOS, the institute for development cooperation of the CISL. This project will continue until May 2022, as part of the “Free Belarus” campaign that the institute is running across the country.

In office since 1994, Lukashenko cancelled the outcome of the elections that resulted in the victory of Svetlana Tikhanovskaya in August 2020. Lukashenko proclaimed himself the winner and decided to renew his five-year mandate. Since then, there has been a brutal cancellation of human rights in Belarus. Dozens of journalists have been arrested, documented cases of torture in prisons have tripled, and more than 800 political dissidents are in jail.

"We protest - says Yuliya - because in our country everything has been falsified, starting with the elections. We want freedom and democracy like in other countries. We want human rights to be respected. And for this, we are still fighting".

Furthermore, since 2021, ISCOS has been committed to supporting Belarussians’ struggle for freedom and human rights with actions aimed at both trade unions and Italian students. In November 2021, on the occasion of the Day of Solidarity with Belarusian Political Prisoners, ISCOS launched the book “Women of Minsk” and a fund raising campaign in support of the political prisoners and their families.

The war in Ukraine has made this initiative even more important. Supporting the political dissidents of Belarus and sharing their stories has cast an important light on the type of regimes that are supporting Putin and his war against Ukraine, which has triggered a massive wave of refugees leaving the country in search of safety.

Treating all migrants and refugees with dignity

Unfortunately, the enormously generous welcome shown towards Ukranian refugees bitterly contrasts to the treatment received by migrants and refugees who have been arriving in Italy for years through the Balkan route. Instead of open arms, these people have encountered rejection and segregation, and have been sent in refugee camps, violating their human rights and in breach of international law. In reaction to this, the ISCOS network’s regional structures in Emilia Romagna, Lombardy, and Tuscany launched the campaign “I walk the line”to raise awareness, solidarity and political pressure to provide local aid to migrants in transit. Thanks to this campaign, ISCOS raised € 50,000 and a substantial amount of basic-needs products, including food and clothing. These have been donated to a network of associations working with migrants locally. ISCOS aims to build and maintain this cooperation to plan other solidarity actions in the future.

In the coming months, ISCOS will organise a mission to Serbia to establish new contacts with activists and volunteers working with migrants in that country. Serbia is an important target for ISCOS’ cooperation activities because many migrants from Asia who are living there are subject to hyper-exploitation, especially in the agricultural sector and in some manufacturing sectors.

Solidarity as a means to promote the 2030 Agenda and its SDGs

Through all its activities, ISCOS and its network are continuously contributing to the realisation of the 2030 Agenda and its sustainable development goals. Standing in defense of people’s human rights, and running campaigns and solidarity actions in support of people whose rights are being violated - whether they are workers, migrants, political dissidents or any others – shows the determined committment of ISCOS and CISL to the SDGs, particularly the call of SDG16 for peaceful and inclusive societies that provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions.