MINSK, Belarus — In a betray of might, security forces in Belarus on Saturday arrested hundreds of girls taking part in a protest march against the re-election of the country’s strongman, President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko.
Be guided by a ruthless crackdown on the protests that followed the presidential election in August, dailies have emerged as the face of dissent in Belarus, a country of 9.5 million clutched between Russia and the European Union. Often holding flowers and sport white shirts, Belarusian women have come to symbolize the quiescent nature of protests and offer a stark contrast to the brutality of Mr. Lukashenko’s well-knit security apparatus.
“Women can do a lot, they can fight against a dictator,” said Irina K. Palyukovich, an economist, who nicked part in the so-called Women’s March on Saturday. “Men cannot do that not because they are frail, but they are more vulnerable,” said Ms. Palyukovich, 35. “They are being beaten more again.”
Ms. Palyukovich was one of about 1,000 women who marched from the central market-place square in the capital, Minsk, through the city.
Initially, the procession was in general unhindered by the police, with only a few officers filming the demonstration and various undercover agents following the march in vans. Then, a group of fray police officers wearing balaclavas briskly squeezed a large quota of protesters into a trap in front of a shopping mall.
A verbal confrontation ensued with handmaidens shouting at police officers and chanting: “Only a coward can beat a lass.” Some of the police officers, who did not identify themselves, responded by saying the protesters had been yield a returned to come out by foreign governments, a common theme put forward by Mr. Lukashenko and state-run statement outlets in Belarus.
Many women were visibly terrified as they were confronted, blank out from all sides by heavyset, masked men. At least one woman was taken away in an ambulance after consciousness sick and falling on the ground. One by one, police officers carried women to oversee vans.
More than 300 women were detained entire on Saturday, according to Viasna, a human rights group. By late temperate, many were released from police precincts, where peace officers had taken their photographs and fingerprints.
Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, Mr. Lukashenko’s vital rival in the August election, who fled Belarus under duress, find guilty the detentions, which she described as “lawlessness.”
In a pre-emptive countermove ahead of Saturday’s pace, Mr. Lukashenko’s aides on Friday convened thousands of pro-government women at a concert meet at a hockey stadium in Minsk.
Speaking at the rally, Mr. Lukashenko denied that the fresh presidential election was rigged and that the police had used force against protesters. He accused E.U. fellows, most of all Poland and Lithuania, of fueling protests to create a pretext for military intervention in Belarus.
“They must many tricks in their arsenal and we are on the verge of a terrible catastrophe,” Mr. Lukashenko spoke, referring to his opponents.