‘Hate propaganda’: Cuban rights campaigner sheds beard

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption In May last year, Beichuan Ercanbay was found guilty of “ancestment insults”

What better way to protest against the government of Cuba than by shaving your head?

It’s a tactic used by some Cuban dissidents, but I was interested to learn that a 53-year-old man decided to do so anyway.

Ismael “Beichuan” Ercanbay has been a human rights campaigner and photographer for almost four decades.

After the new government under Raul Castro seized power in 1959, Mr Ercanbay was jailed for protesting against what he saw as human rights abuses.

Image copyright Reuters Image caption Castro, whose brother Fidel served as president for 49 years, took power in Cuba in 1959

Now that “democracy is no longer an idea”, Mr Ercanbay says he is proud to be able to express himself on social media and is encouraged that younger people like him are speaking out for what they believe in.

He says he wants “to be able to express an opinion without fear” – something that he fears is being crushed under Cuba’s communist system.

Mr Ercanbay and his friend Jose Luis Frere have been supporting each other’s shaved heads, with Mr Frere sporting a beard and watching as Mr Ercanbay on Monday proudly showed off his new ‘do – proudly presenting a slice of his hair as “a symbol of solidarity”.

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Mr Ercanbay plans to shave his head again if Mr Castro steps down in the coming weeks

Mr Ercanbay and Mr Frere will be turning up at the US embassy in Havana on 25 August to protest against the upcoming US-Cuban detente and Mr Castro’s role in it.

Mr Ercanbay says he will be coming and standing outside the embassy and will shave his head again if Raul Castro leaves power in the coming weeks.

He says he is “confident that the change will not lead Cuba towards full economic and political equality”.

“If Castro were to leave the day of his 80th birthday – to pass power on to his younger brother – it would not ensure Cuba the Cuba that we all desire,” he adds.

“Castro has assumed power without responsibility since 1959. He has not condemned the atrocities committed during that era or the economic abuses. This is not tolerable. It is inconceivable that some countries will bring Castro to the International Criminal Court,” he says.

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