Teaching repression a lesson: International campaign supports Belarusian students to get back into university

Today, Belarusian Human Rights Center Viasna together with Belarusian Students Association (BSA) and German-Swiss organization Libereco – Partnership for Human Rights launched an international campaign “Teaching repression a lesson” in support of expelled students in Belarus. Through an online petition on the campaigning platform Change.org they call upon the Belarusian Minister of Education and rectors of key Belarusian universities to readmit students that were expelled for political reasons.

Over the past two years at least twelve students were expelled from their universities for political reasons. In February and March 2017 many people joined nationwide peaceful protests demanding to end a tax on unemployed people in Belarus (Presidential Decree No. 3). Within four weeks more than 1000 protesters, journalists and opposition activists were detained across the country – among them many students. After the students were released from prison, several of them were expelled from their universities. Although other reasons were given for the forced removal from their studies, the expulsions were undeniably connected to these students’ activities in civil society and politics or their participation in peaceful protests.

Ales Bialiatski, Chairman of Human Rights Center Viasna, states:

“The authoritarian regime in Belarus controls the social activity of students. The repression affects the most active students who participate in the democratic public and political life of the country. Violation of students’ rights in Belarus are systematic and aimed at keeping the students underfoot and in fear. They are part of the general system of suppressing rights and freedoms in Belarus. They constitute a blatant disregard of international obligations in the sphere of human rights.”

The campaign “Teaching repression a lesson” aims to allow the twelve students Alena Dzianiščyc, Darja Jakuš, Arciom Kavaloŭ, Alena Kisiel, Jury Łukaševič, Piotr Markiełaŭ, Ihar Nelipovič, Viačasłaŭ Panasiuk, Nastaśsia Piluhina, Marya Rabkova, Chryścijan Šynkievič and Hleb Vajkul to resume their studies. The campaign features several of these students in short video testimonials, which will be released in the course of the campaign.

In May 2015, Belarus entered the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) to join the Bologna Process, which aims at aligning standards between European higher education institutions. 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.

Viasna, BSA and Libereco urge the Belarusian Minister of Education and all Belarusian universities to stop expelling students for their activities in civil society or politics and to guarantee the rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association to all students in Belarus without facing the risk of being arrested or expelled from their studies.

Contact:
Belarusian Students’ Association: zbsstydent@gmail.com (Sasha Kuzmich)
Human Rights Center Viasna: zmicier.salauyou@gmail.com (Zmicier Salauyou)
Libereco – Partnership for Human Rights: media@lphr.org (Jan-Henrik Wiebe)

Background information:
The petition “Teaching repression a lesson” can be found on change.org/BelarusStudents. The video testimonials and case descriptions of the expelled students featured in this campaign can be found on www.lphr.org/belarus. Photos are available at a google drive folder: https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B1fP_EyfZ_kdWE1lV0drMmw4TjA.