Students in Belarus

The Dutch online higher education magazine ‘Scienceguide‘ reported on the precarious situation of students in Belarus. Here is my translation:

With the upcoming presidential elections of March 19, Belarus dictator Lukashenko is acting in the way we know him. Again, he uses students as a target in order to intimidate civilians. During a memorial procession to commemorate ‘lost’ members of the political opposition and journalists, 20 members of the student movement Zoebr have been arrested. Because recently the public voicing of discontent with the regime became liable to punishment (because of ‘attack on the good name of the nation’), one should fear for the fate of the students.

Zoebr president Jevgeni Afanagel and his colleagues were already arrested and accused of vandalism at a gathering where they were planning a demonstration. Also, an opposition leader has been convicted to two and a half year in a penal camp. This happened even though his charge – accepting donations from abroad for his political activities – was withdrawn suddenly.

Lukashenko is also known as Europe’s last dictator. He has totally isolated the country from other European and many Asian countries. Not just political ties with the west are non-existent, but also relations in other fields such as higher education. It is typical that the Belarus has also refrained itself from participating in the European Bologna process, a European reform process aiming at establishing a European Higher Education Area by 2010. Even though in 2005 countries like Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine joined the process, Belarus remains a white spot on the map.

This happens to be very well illustrated on the cover of a book that I am currently reading: Universities and the Europe of Knowledge; Ideas, Institutions and Policy Entrepreneurship in European Union Higher Education 1955-2005 (by Anne Corbett, 2005).

UPDATE: I just ran into the website of an English campaign addressing the Belarus issue:
The United 4 Belarus campaign is aiming to raise awareness of the situation in Belarus in the United Kingdom and the European Union in the run-up to and the aftermath of the March 19th Presidential elections. A number of specific national campaign activities are planned and a number of ideas for local activities are documented on the website.

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