This month Alexander Fruman, an Israeli, was walking along a street in Belarus and got swept up into a crowd publicly protesting the legitimacy of dictator Lukashenko’s victory in recent elections. “We were walking around downtown, and they kidnapped me,” Fruman said. “They beat us with clubs… ” After 78 hours in custody he was released.
Alexander Fruman and his wife Vanessa came to Minsk to search for information about relatives who were murdered in the city during the Holocaust in 1941. Belarusian security forces arrested Alexander last week near the apartment he and his wife were renting on Independence Avenue in the capital.
“They beat us with batons. In front of my eyes I saw the police beating a disabled child and a woman,” Alexander said. “We were forced into all sorts of awkward positions. If someone moved the policemen started beating him again. At one point we were loaded on a cart in piles like in Auschwitz.”
“I lay on several people who fainted. If anyone complained – they beat him with batons. From the moment the police learned that I was an Israeli citizen, they made anti-Semitic jokes and beat me again and again.”
Alexander was then taken to a detention facility in the city of Zhudina. There, he claims, they put him and 17 others in a cell designed for eight.
“They claimed they lost my passport and detention form, but that was because I refused to sign a document. They released me on Friday after 78 hours of detention. “
“I did not participate in the demonstration at all. We just walked around the city center and suddenly three people dressed in black jumped on me and just kidnapped me. They put us on the bus and then all hell broke loose. They accused me of betraying the country, that I was an Israeli spy. There were all kinds of anti-Semitic remarks. After the beatings, people were half dead there. They beat the disabled, people with broken arms, beat the women. A man underneath me fainted, then defecated from fear. I was tortured for 16 hours in a row at the police station.”
Alexander had lived in Minsk before immigrating to Israel in 1998. He said that a year ago his family decided to take a trip back to see their roots and where the Nazis murdered his relatives.
“We bought plane tickets to Minsk before corona. After corona arrived we thought we would not go, but then at the end of June we decided to fly there because the situation in Belarus got better. On August 7 we arrived to visit my parents’ graves. We wanted to show my seven-year-old son his relatives.”
Alexander, who works as a data expert and senior statistician in Israel, further noted that the family will return to Israel on August 28th.
“I am not afraid. I am in a safe place with the family, and I am determined to help the people of Belarus break free from this dictator. If before I was indifferent to the situation – now I am [not]. What I saw cannot happen in the 21st century. We are not in Germany of the last century.”
Alexander uploaded to his Facebook account pictures of protesters who were beaten and wrote: “Israeli friends, help the people of Belarus break free from fascist rule!!! Every shekel helps!!!” The Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem said that the Israeli ambassador in Minsk was in contact with Alexander and his wife and assisted them.
Lukashenko, known as “the last dictator in Europe,” recorded a dubious victory in Belarus’ presidential election on August 9th. Immediately afterward, tens of thousands took part in anti-government demonstrations. According to reports, protesters were killed in the protests, thousands were arrested and some were tortured.