Students from IU and around the world will simultaneously mobilize on Oct. 15 to denounce the government of the Republic of Belarus by marching in solidarity to protest the Aleksander Lukashenka administration.
Belarus is an eastern European nation and former Soviet satellite where, activists charge, the Lukashenka government has falsified election results, beat peaceful protestors, instigated the murders of journalists and politicians, and censored independent media.
On campuses, local parks and city streets, participants in the Worldwide Walk for Democracy in Belarus will protest what they consider an unconstitutional referendum held by Lukashenka on Oct. 17, 2004 to extend his rule.
Students for Global Democracy was started in Bloomington a year and a half ago by IU student Charlie Szrom. It has since grown to include chapters around the United States and as far abroad as Ghana and Taiwan.
"I started SGD to help students find a way to make the world a better place in the most efficient manner possible," Szrom said. "I feel that the time I spend working on it will directly help people overseas to bring justice and liberty to nations suffering under repressive regimes.
"SGD is a non-partisan, student-run organization that supports pro-democratic, non-violent efforts by students in countries with undemocratic governments. It has become an international movement, with chapters in Ghana, Nepal, South Africa and Turkey."
The Worldwide Walk is meant to boost the morale of democracy activists, provide funds to support their independent media outreach and place international pressure on the Belarusian president and his government to observe international human rights standards, including the right to free and fair elections.
The Worldwide Walk is the capstone of a six-month fundraising campaign in which SGD volunteers have raised thousands of dollars for the Belarusian student group Zubr-Bison.
SGD will receive one-third of the total proceeds from the walk to support future democracy promotion programs, such as activist exchange programs between veteran pro-democracy groups.
Szrom added that, after an earlier fundraising hike held at the University of California-Berkeley, "One of the founders of Zubr, whom I can't identify for fear of their imprisonment, had stated that seeing the students in California was really inspiring and that everyone in Belarus is talking about how great it is to have people that far away support them."
Participants in the Worldwide Walk will march 12 kilometers, one for every year the Belarusian people will have suffered under tyranny when elections come in October 2006, Szrom said.
Marchers will meet at the Indiana Memorial Union at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday, October 15th and carpool together to Brown County State Park, where they will hike together through some of southern Indiana's most beautiful natural scenery.
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Charlie Szrom, firstname.lastname@example.org.