Teaching repression a lesson: support Belarusian students to get back into university
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Being active in politics or civil society as a student is not self-evident in Belarus. The country has a long and sad history of expelling students from university for their activities in civil society or politics.
I, Piotr Markielau, personally know what that means. I was expelled from university in 2015 after participating in the local election as a candidate. The official reason for my expulsion was missing classes — but in fact they were punishing me for my civil engagement. I was able to start my studies again the following year, but was expelled again for my continued activism.
In my country, just across the eastern border of the EU, it is very difficult to develop any kind of political opinion or social engagement as a student. Broadening your activities beyond your studies might mean the end of your career as a student.
My case is not the only one. Very recently I have witnessed several students being expelled from their universities. In February and March 2017 many people participated in nationwide peaceful protests demanding the end to a tax on unemployed people in Belarus (Presidential Decree No. 3). Within four weeks more than 1000 protesters, journalists and opposition activists had been detained across the country - among them many students. After the students were released from prison, several of them were expelled from their universities - just like I was expelled before.
Many of these students had been under pressure for a while already for their political activities or simply for expressing their opinion. Most of us were not explicitly expelled because of our participation in demonstrations or our engagement in civil society. The university administration mentioned other reasons, such as missing classes and exams, or allegedly breaking the law. In reality, all of us were expelled for being active in civil society or politics; or even for simply participating in peaceful demonstrations or exercising the right of freedom of expression.
Besides me, the students Alena Dzianiščyc, Darja Jakuš, Arciom Kavaloŭ, Alena Kisiel, Jury Łukaševič, Ihar Nelipovič, Viačasłaŭ Panasiuk, Nastaśsia Piluhina, Chryścijan Šynkievič, Maryja Rabkova, Mikałaj Łohvinaŭ and Hleb Vajkul have been expelled within the last two years from the Belarusian State University in Minsk, the Belarusian State Pedagogical University in Minsk, the Belarusian State Medical University in Minsk, the Pushkin State University in Brest and the State University in Mogilov.
I invite you to join me to call upon the Belarusian Ministry of Education and the Rectors of all Belarusian universities to:
- reverse the expulsions of the students mentioned above immediately and unconditionally;
- stop expelling students for their activities in civil society or politics;
- guarantee the right to freedom of expression, assembly and association to all students in Belarus.
- Minister of Education
- Rector of BSU
- Rector of BSPU
- Rector of BSMU
- Rector of Puškin BSU
- Rector of Kulašoŭ MSU
In the past few years and especially in Spring 2017, several students were expelled from their universities in Belarus. Although other reasons were given for the forced removal from their studies, these expulsions were undeniably connected to the students’ activities in civil society and politics or their participation in peaceful protests.
Every person has the right to freely express their opinion and assemble peacefully under the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as under the Belarusian constitution. As any other citizen, students at Belarusian universities should have the opportunity to enjoy these rights without facing the risk of being arrested or expelled from their studies.
The students Alena Dzianiščyc, Darja Jakuš, Arciom Kavaloŭ, Alena Kisiel, Jury Łukaševič, Piotr Markiełaŭ, Ihar Nelipovič, Viačasłaŭ Panasiuk, Nastaśsia Piluhina, Chryścijan Šynkievič, Maryja Rabkova, Mikałaj Łohvinaŭ and Hleb Vajkul have been expelled within the last two years from the Belarusian State University in Minsk, the Belarusian State Pedagogical University in Minsk, the Belarusian State Medical University in Minsk, the Pushkin State University in Brest and the State University in Mogilov.
We call upon you to:
reverse the expulsions of the students mentioned above immediately and unconditionally;
stop expelling students for their activities in civil society or politics;
guarantee the right to freedom of expression, assembly and association to all students in Belarus.
In May 2015, Belarus entered the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) to join the Bologna Process - an effort to create comparability in the standards and quality of higher education qualifications in Europe. By expelling students for political reasons Belarus not only violates fundamental students’ rights, that are integral part of the Bologna Process, but also fails to abide by its commitments to implement a roadmap to reform higher education.
We therefore urge you to ensure that all Belarusian universities fulfil the conditions of the Bologna Process.
I am counting upon you to take swift measures to right these injustices and prevent similar expulsions from happening in the future.
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