Belarusian Students are Still Fighting for Democracy! Join our international solidarity movement today!
What is happening in Belarus?
Following the fraudulent reelection of Belarus President Aleksander Lukashenko, Belarusians took it to the streets in the largest protests the country had ever seen since its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. All strata of society were represented in those carrying white-red-white flags, demanding fair elections, the end of corruption and a more democratic future.
However, despite hopeful beginnings, the revolt turned sour as the regime started waves of intense and ruthless repression against those who had dared to dream for long-awaited change. Countless were arrested and beaten up, kept in deplorable conditions, some now facing charges that could lead them to not see the light of day for the next coming years. Many were forced to leave their cherished home country and live in exile in Ukraine, Poland and Lithuania. Many of the students who took part in the protests found themselves expelled from university and cannot continue their studies.
Nonetheless, if victory seems far from reachable in the foreseeable future, hope has lit up in the hearts of Belarusians the day the country came together for dignity. And despite being driven to continue their fight underground, abroad or in a prison cell, the struggle for a fair and democratic Belarus continues.
What can you do to help?
If it seems like the battle has been lost, the war has not. But for now, Belarusians students need your help.
And it has never been as easy to contribute to the struggle for freedom! You can do so by:
- Spreading the word
- Demanding your university and elected officials to release a statement and help students studying at our universities
- Sending letters to political prisoners to show your support
- Supporting the Belarusian Students’ Association
This campaign is in partnership with the Belarusian Students’ Association
Read the stories of brave students who fight for justice
Many of those who took part in the protests were students. However, under the Lukashenko regime, universities expel those who dare to speak up and young males who are not enrolled in a course are immediately drafted into the army. Under the threat of administrative or criminal charges, countless young people have had to drop their education and run abroad to safety.
Read the stories of seven students whose struggle for democracy and freedom has derailed their lives:
Dziana – 19
Dziana studied cultural management. She loves music and art. When the protest movement started, Dziana became the administrator of a Telegram account that allowed students to discuss politics.
She was arrested in March 2021 at a conference of student unions discussing the protest movement. Unmarked police wearing black masks burst into the conference rounding up students. Dziana was held at the police department and interrogated for hours by KGB employees. Under threat of arrest, police opened her phone, accessing contacts, group members, and details of student protests.
Fearing further arrest, Dziana fled to Poland on a humanitarian visa.
Alex – 19
Alex studied tourism and sports management. He likes sports and American hip-hop music. When the election was stolen, he joined the student protests.
Only minutes after arriving at a protest, police dressed in civilian clothes grabbed and detained Alex. He was held for 8 days. Upon his release, the university called Alex into meetings, pressuring him to keep quiet and avoid all political activity. But Alex wanted a democracy; he’d seen police beat his people in the streets, and he was arrested for 8 days just for attending a demonstration. So he continued to make political expressions.
In response, his university expelled him; a decision that automatically deprives Alex of the right to pursue education and sentences him to immediate military service.
To escape military police and continue his dream of education, Alex rushed to the Ukrainian border, having barely had time to say goodbye to his pregnant mother.
Dan – 23
Dan is in his early 20s and plays tennis and strategy games.
After the fake election results, he began organising student demonstrations at his university, joining the nationwide movement. As his friends began to disappear from their homes into police vans, Dan and his girlfriend were forced to destroy their phones and enter into hiding in hopes to escape the KGB and Lukashenko’s prisons.
On 12th Nov., as Belarusian secret services launched a crackdown on student activists, the police broke down the door of his home looking for him. Dan and his girlfriend left everything behind and fled to the Russian border, escaping Belarus through the woods in the middle of the night.
They hid in Moscow for 2 days before finally making it to safety in Kyiv.
Anastasija – 21 & Maksim – 22
Anastasija and Maksim are like most college students around the world. When they’re not studying, Anastasija likes to play piano, and Maksim goes to rock shows.
But, in Oct., Maksim took the simple act of sitting on university stairs in solidarity with the violently beaten protestors. For this, the Vice Dean handed him a summons to the police for interrogation. After interrogation, he was arrested and jailed for 15 days, serving 36 hours in solitary confinement. He was denied a phone call, so his family and friends did not hear from him. The prison was crawling with bed bugs and rats.
Anastasija cried for days; she did not know if Maksim would be tortured like other protestors or ever released. To disguise their efforts, the KGB used the Dep’t of Financial Investigators to grab Anastasija as she walked to class. She was passed to the KGB and subjected to hours of interrogation. The KGB interrogated her 5 different times, searched Maksim’s dorm, and threatened 2 criminal cases against her.
On 12th Nov., KGB executed a raid against students and Maksim was expelled, forcing him out of school and into the military. With numerous criminal charges threatened against them, that night they left their home, family, and friends and raced to the Ukrainian border before they could be detained.
Alina – 20
At university, Alina studied journalism. She loves Harry Potter and baking.
When the protests began across Belarus, Alina felt hopeful; as if Belarusians were building a new nation.
But as the repression grew, she was eventually questioned by the police. As friends around her began disappearing behind bars, each moment, every walk to the store, and every car that passed filled Alina with terror that she was next. The fear the police created was crushing. Their message: stay out of politics. When her friend was arrested and detained on politically related charges, she was advised to leave the country as fast as she could to avoid the same.
She escaped to Kyiv, where she continues the fight through journalism.
Nadia – 21
A Russian citizen, Nadia spent most of her life in Belarus. Hungry for travel and adventure, she once hitch-hiked all the way to China from Minsk.
She became active in the protest movement after her friend was beaten up by the police while being under arrest. It wasn’t long until she got kidnapped by the KGB and sentenced to 12 days in a detention centre, without access to a lawyer, any kind of hygiene products or the possibility to let her family know.
Fearing another arrest, as it had happened to so many others, she fled Belarus and sought safety in Poland.
Since August 2020, when the protests against the results of the presidential election started, the Belarusian Students’ Association has recorded 492 cases of students being detained, 160 being expelled from university and 51 students being held in jail facing criminal charges.
During the crackdown against students on 12 November 2020, which came to be known as ‘Black Thursday’, 11 students were arrested for their involvement in the protests. They have now all been judged and sentenced to prison for 2 to 2 and a half years.
Some student cases are more striking than others, for instance, the ones of Mikita Litvienska, beaten upon arrest and sentenced to 4 years in prison for participating in a protest, David Zbaranski, a 17-year-old political prisoner because he took part in a protest, and Marfa Rabkova, a student and volunteer service coordinator of the human rights organisation Viasna, who is now facing up to 12 years of prison time for her work.
Learn more about Belarusian political prisoners by visiting the Viasna website. These cases violate fundamental human rights and international law:
- the Right to Self Determination, Right to a Fair Trial, and Freedom of Expression and Assembly guaranteed in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights ratified by Belarus on the 12th Nov 1973 (Articles 1.1, 14.3b, 19 and 22)
- Article 36 of the Belarusian Constitution regarding Freedom of Assembly
- Articles 10 and 11 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights regarding Freedom of Expression and Freedom of Assembly and Association
- the Principle of Academic Freedom, upheld by the European Higher Education Area and Bologna Process, joined by Belarus in 2015
What can you do to help?
All these students are accused of organising peaceful student protests and strikes. These are activities we usually take for granted in our countries. Campuses should be places for students to learn, exchange ideas, debate and grow. It is in it of itself the concept of academic freedom.
If you wish to help them in their struggle for democracy, justice and dignity, you can do any of the following:
Spread the word!
- Post about it on your or your organisation’s social media, using the hashtag #BelarusWatch
- Talk about it to human rights organisations in your university and/or in your professional circle
- Publicity is a key instrument in the Belarusian people’s fight!
Demand your university administration to release a statement condemning the repression of students and facilitate Belarusian students’ access to study at our universities
- Following this link to find a letter template for phrasing! Feel free to translate into your language and make the necessary edits:
- https://docs.google.com/document/d/1miqXNQjTm3C4braQ2-KHCDM174ncRBOp9q MHeUccpkI/edit
Join our coalition today!
- If you are interested in working with us to safeguard the rights of Belarusian students, leave your contact details here and join our coalition.
- https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1kBlSBL2ddH50DSMB6gMDnL_UVEARmG vKNQEW-he-ZPs/edit
Send letters to political prisoners to let them know they are not forgotten!
- Do so very easily using the website vkletochku (no need to know Russian or Belarusian, the volunteers will translate your letters)
- Become friends with political prisoners and learn how to help them using the website politzek.me
Support the Belarusian Students’ Association in their fight to improve education and collect evidence of student repression!
- One of the oldest and most active student associations in Belarus, they represent students, run political and social campaigns, help exiled students to find resources and new universities, advise students on legal matters and continue the fight for a more democratic future for Belarus.
- Visit their website by clicking here
If you have any questions regarding this campaign or the political situation in Belarus, feel free to send us an email to our email address: firstname.lastname@example.org