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Dzmitry Lukashenka (second from left) attends Victory Day celebrations in Minsk in May 2019 with his father (right) and brothers.

The assistant to the son of authoritarian Belarusian leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka has denied speculative reports she left her job because of anger over police brutality against protesters, including the arrest of her father.

Ksenia Valakhanovich confirmed on her Facebook page on September 21 that she was no longer employed as the assistant to Dzmitry Lukashenka, the head of the Presidential Sports Club of Belarus and 40-year-old son of the Belarusian leader.

However, she said she made the decision to leave before the August 9 election that sparked mass protests against Lukashenka's rule because she wanted to pursue art.

"I understood that I could not fully devote myself to my passion when I'm busy with other things from 9 to 18," she said in her post.

Valakhanovich's post was prompted by a news report earlier in that day that pointed out her departure came as she began posting comments on Facebook against police brutality and in support of the protesters.

Hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets across Belarus to protest the August 9 vote that handed Lukashenka another five-year term. The protesters claim the vote was rigged in Lukashenka's favor and have called on him to step down.

Lukashenka, who has ruled the country with an iron hand since 1994, has sought to crush the biggest protest movement of his reign with mass arrests and torture.

He has called the protesters "rats" and has described as a betrayal those former insiders who have joined the protest movement.

Valakhanovich posted photos of herself at the rallies holding the red-and-white flag of the protest movement banned by Lukashenka while the texts accompanying the photos often criticized the authorities for the brutal crackdown on citizens.

"Thousands of victims and not one opened criminal case in connection with the violence so far," she posted on September 16.

Days earlier, she shared a post by her father about how he was detained by police.

However, she tried to downplay the connection between her Facebook posts and her departure from the Presidential Sports Club.

She said that her father had been detained more than a month after her departure from her job and spoke favorably of her former boss.

"I can't say anything other than words of thankfulness. This is a decent and truly kind person," she said of Dzmitry Lukashenka.

With reporting by RFE/RL's Belarus Service and
Malala Yousafzai (center) celebrates graduating from Oxford University at an undisclosed location on June 18.

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai says that "there should be no compromise" on the right to education for Afghan girls in ongoing peace negotiations between the government and Taliban militants.

In an exclusive interview with RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal on September 21, Yousafzai said that "peace is precious" for the Afghan people after suffering through four decades of war, losing their family members, homes, and livelihoods.

Malala, who was awarded the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize for her campaign supporting the education of girls, stressed that women's freedoms and human rights should not be undermined in any peace process.

"We all hope that peace comes to this world so that our people have their own normal life. But it is very necessary that [the government and the Taliban] have to listen to the voices of civil society and women and there should be no compromise on girls' education and human rights because peace can't be restored without human rights," said Malala, who was shot in the head by a Pakistani Taliban gunman when she was on her way to school in the Swat Valley.

Women's rights is one of the thorniest issues in the long-delayed, U.S.-brokered peace talks that began in Doha on September 12.

During its brief administration in Afghanistan, the Taliban banned women from going to school and working outside their homes, while also brutally enforcing a strict dress code.

Many Afghan activists fear that women's rights could be a casualty of peace negotiations despite recent pledges by Taliban officials that they will respect women's rights under Islamic law.

Millions of Afghan girls have gone to school and women enjoy the right to work and participate in politics since the collapse of the Taliban regime in 2001.

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.


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