About a country, where universities cannot be independent
While students in Germany might complain about the digital semester, higher education policy in Belarus is facing real problems. The Aktionsbündnis Belarus addresses them and shows what everyone can do about it.
By now, we all probably are familiar with the images from the news about protests in Belarus. We know that things in this country are anything but democratic. We also know that Lukashenka, the ruler, has been securing his re-election through electoral fraud for years. What most of us are not aware of, however, is the dramatic situation of the higher education system in Belarus.
"It's unbelievable that something like this is still possible in the 21st century, in this modern world," Teresa explains upsetly. She is a co-founder of the Aktionsbündnis Belaurus, consisting of students from Frankfurt (Oder), Berlin and Görlitz, which came into being as a reaction to the disappearance of the Belarusian student and activist Alana Gebremariam. For many years, she had been campaigning for a democratic Belarus and the participation of students in the university system. Like over a hundred other activists, Alana has now been arrested and imprisoned by the KGB and faces up to three years in prison. In contrast to German universities, the about 50 universities in Belarus have no independent administration. The university directors are appointed directly by the president. All decisions are controlled by the state. Private life is literally non-existent for students, even normal meetings with more than ten friends in public run under the government's radar.
The Aktionsbündnis Belarus did not want to continue watching this injustice. First, they started a mail campaign, created a website and tried to raise awareness in the university context. Last Sunday, they showed up at the demonstration “Raven gegen das Patriarchat” ("Rave against the Patriarchy") in Berlin and drew attention to the oppression of students. "We have to remind the politicians here that things are happening there that should not be like this," Teresa says.
The focus of the association is therefore to gradually expand the network of solidarity within Germany. Together with the organisation Libereco, for example, there will be a series of letters to political prisoners. On the website, they also offer a lot of information material in the form of posts, text templates and further links to provide more information on the topic of Belarus. They are also supporting a fundraising campaign by the Gemeinschaft für studentischen Austausch in Mittel- und Osteuropa (GFPS e.V.) to expand scholarship places for Belarusian students in Europe.
But there is still a long way to go before a free Belarus comes into being. If you ask Teresa what needs to be changed in Belarus, she just laughs: "Pretty much everything". However, the Aktionsbündnis Belarus considers it particularly important to stop de-registration for political reasons on the ground. In Europe, on the other hand, understanding must be increased. To use their words from the weekend: "Be loud for those who have to be quiet!”.
For more information, please visit the website of the Aktionsbündnis (https://aktionsbuendnis-belarus.de/) or the website of the Belarusian student union BSU (https://bsu.by/en/).