In 2010, just days after Lukashenko’s brutal post-election crackdown on protesters, the International Ice Hockey Federation announced that it would host the 2014 Championships in Belarus. This prompted NGOs from Germany, Sweden, Norway, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and the Helsinki Norwegian Committee to launch a campaign to prevent the Championships going ahead in protest at Belarus’ human rights violations. Despite international outcry and MPs in the EU speaking out against the event, the Championships still went ahead.
Don’t Play with Dictators was a two-pronged campaign. The first part asked international pop stars to boycott or cancel performances in Belarus to protest the imprisonment of activists and opposition leaders in the country.
The second part brought together writers, artists and directors from all across the world to condemn the decision to hold the 2014 World Ice Hockey Championships in Belarus.
In the UK, BFT asked artists including Michael Attenborough, Kim Cattrall, Stephen Fry, Hugh Grant, Jude Law, Joanna Lumley, Alan Rickman, Mark Rylance and Tom Stoppard to sign an open letter to ice hockey players, urging them to stand up for the rights of people facing torture, kidnapping and murder, intimidation and harassment for speaking out against Lukashenko’s regime.
Extract of the Open Letter
“Please do not let yourselves be used by a despot. Join us by showing you do not support the Last Dictator of Europe and that you stand with the people of Belarus by wearing a red and white scarf after the match. These are the colours of our national flag that is recognised in Belarus as a symbol of resistance.”
Poster, billboards and video stunt
Nicolai Khalezin, BFT’s co-founding Artistic Director, was part of the creative team who devised the anti-dictatorship video campaign which featured voiceover by Jay O. Sanders, as well as an outdoor marketing campaign which ran along the Polish/Belarusian border highway. It featured the iconic image of an ice hockey helmet entangled in barbed wire together with the slogan: “World Championship on Number of Political Prisoners. Belarus – 2014. Don’t Play with Dictators.”