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.
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