Tuesday

18th Jun 2019

Investigation

Education used as weapon against young people in Belarus

Anastasia Shuleika was expelled from Belarus State University on 14 February for speaking out against President Alexander Lukashenko.

The rector of the university is Sergei Vladimirovich Ablameiko. His name is one of 208 officials banned from traveling into the EU. He allegedly gave her name to the KGB, who took care of the rest.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

Shuleika's story is far from unique. Since 2006, around 700 university students have shared a similar fate. Some have ended up in jail.

The youth in this country, closed off from most of the world, cannot speak their minds freely and in open. In many cases, people simply dream of leaving.

One of them is Dmitry Bulanov. He also spoke out against Lukashenko and took part in the post-election-rigging protests on 19 December 2010, kicking over a police barrier.

He says he almost died in prison last May. He is still under surveillance and must report to police every week for the next five years.

He is also banned from pursuing his music studies at university and lives at home in his mother's flat on the seventh floor of a large Soviet-era residential building on Minsk's outskirts.

From his room, he stares out over a city which has come to symbolise his lost dreams. He now hopes to move to Poland with his girlfriend. "There is no future for me in Belarus," he told this reporter in November.

His mother's anger against the state is almost palpable - Dmitry is her only child.

Less than 200 km away in Vilnius, about 2,000 Belarusian students attend the European Humanities University (EHU). Its rector, Arsenij Mikhailov, set it up in 2006 when Belarus closed down his school in Minsk. He is well into his seventies and cannot return to his home country.

Darya, a 22-year-old EHU student told this website that "Belarus authorities didn't like the idea of academic freedom and of visiting EU professors ... they closed the school in Minsk in 2005 on the pretext that it did not have a physical fitness programme." She added: "In Belarus you are forced to take courses on ideology and professors tell you what is good and what is bad. [You study] propaganda."

Her degree at EHU will be recognised everywhere in Europe except in her native country.

Meanwhile, other young people in Belarus continue to kick against the regime and to suffer the consequences.

Nasta Palazhanka has been in and out of jail since she was 16. Now 22, she is one of the leaders of Youth Front, a movement which aims to re-awaken a society which has been traumatised by almost two decades of repression.

Like Dmitry Bulanov, she too is out on bail, but her activism has cost her brother his job at the bank, twice. Her father in 2007 also lost his job. Last year, he suffered a heart attack when he learned she would return to prison.

Palazhanka and many like her try to keep a low profile and organise events in secret through social media. Her interview with this reporter was arranged in a secret location with the blinds drawn to keep away prying eyes. She is often followed.

The EU recently blacklisted Luidmila Iganatovich-Mishneva, a prosecutor who sentenced two activists from Nasta's Youth Front to prison.

The trial - say EU countries - was a farce. One of those convicted, 24-year-old Eduard Lobov, will now spend the next four years of his life in a high-security penal colony. His friend, Zmitser Daskevich, will serve two years. Both are charged with "hooliganism."

"Due to continuing concerns regarding the deterioration of human rights, democracy and rule of law the [blacklist] was updated several times in the course of 2011," EU foreign affairs spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic told EUobserver back in Brussels.

In March, the EU took a new step of imposing economic sanctions on two Lukashenko-linked oligarchs and 29 companies. It remains to be seen if the measures will have any positive impact on the lives of ordinary people in the country, however.

In the meantime, for Palazhanka and for thousands of others, the stark realities which have defined their entire adult lives remain the same.

"A person who walks this path [opposition] should understand that their families will also suffer. Hundreds of people have sacrificed their careers and their health," she said.

UK universities ranked best in EU

The UK hosts all the "world class" universities in Europe according to a fresh study, with the US top overall and French and German schools far behind.

EU ambassadors trickle back to Minsk

All EU ambassadors are returning to Minsk in a bid to improve deteriorating relations with Belarus dictator Alexander Lukashenko, in power for the past 18 years.

'Lukashenko put cucumbers in my trunk'

Belarus' former leader - Stanislav Shushkevich - says Lukashenko is an "arse-kisser" whose power will wane if the EU imposes economic sanctions.

News in Brief

  1. New socialist group leader to push for Timmermans
  2. Romanian ex-PM frontrunner to head new liberal group
  3. France, Germany and Spain in fighter jet deal
  4. Tusk grilled in Poland over role as PM
  5. Italy is 'most credible' US partner in EU, says Salvini
  6. EU blames Sudan junta for killings and rapes
  7. Report: EU may suspend Turkey customs union talks
  8. Swiss stock exchange could lose EU access in July

Interview

Meet the lawyer taking the EU migration policy to the ICC

Juan Branco is a lawyer and co-author of a legal document submitted to the International Criminal Court (ICC) accusing EU officials and member states of crimes against humanity for their migration policies. "Some people should have to go to prison."

Agenda

Top EU jobs summit dominates This WEEK

A summit in Belgian capital this week will host heads of government and state to discuss top EU institutional posts. But before they meet, the jockeying for the Commission presidency will have already started among the European political groups.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  3. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  5. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  6. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  7. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  8. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody

Latest News

  1. EU urges Swiss to move on talks or face sanction
  2. Frontex transparency dispute goes to EU court
  3. Commission goes easy on scant national climate plans
  4. Macron and Mogherini decline to back US accusation on Iran
  5. EU summit must give effective answer on migration
  6. Spain's Garcia set to be next Socialist leader in parliament
  7. Erdogan mocks Macron amid EU sanctions threat
  8. The most dangerous pesticide you've never heard of

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  2. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  4. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  5. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  10. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  11. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  12. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us