Remanded Children Go on Hungering
(report from the hunger-strikers’ flat)
People refuse taking food only in extreme cases. Schoolchildren and former students continue their hunger-strike in Zhodzina, not far from Minsk to protest against the lawlessness in educational establishments. Dzmitry Chartkou, Aliaksandr Vinahradau, Iauhien Valkaviets, Siarhiei and Murashka went on the hunger-strike on 25 May. Paviel Kareniukhin and Siarhiei Marchyk joined them. The guys don’t eat anything and drink only water for the eighth day already. The youngest is 17, the oldest – 25 years old. The under-aged, Siarhiei Murashka and Paviel Kareniukhin spend nights at home, the rest – in the flat of one of the action participants.
All of them fell victims of political persecution in their educational establishments. On 12 May Paviel Kareniukhin took part in the pocket of protest against the remand of his friend Siarhiei Murashka that was held in front of Zhodzina City Executive Committee. Kareniukhin and some of his friends held posters with the surnames of the students and pupils remanded for political reasons and the poster with the questions “Who’s the next?”. The police dispersed the picket and put down the picketers’ surnames. After that Paviel Kareniukhin faced problems. He studied at the Olympic reserve college in the town of Plieshchanitsy and often won skiing contests. He was even awarded with the skis of the famous Belarusian sportsman Alieh Ryzhankou for his outstanding achievements. He was remanded despite of the fact there was only a week of studies left before graduation. He was also evicted from the college dormitory.
The hunger-striker Dzmitry Chartkou is former student of Belarusian Academy of Arts. He was made to take his documents away from this educational establishment after he had been detained at the protest meeting of 19 October. KGB officers paid a visit to the academy and “talked” to the teachers. After that Dzmitry was informed he could become professionally inadequate for the work of film director and therefore “advised” him to take documents away.
-- My friends and I share common views on the life. We faced a hard situation. I know it quite well what it means to be remanded. I went on hunger-strike. It is the last step for me. Nobody listens to us, our statements are ignored. If we leave it all as it is, there won’t be any result at all. Now we have that something may change.
-- How is information about the hunger-strike distributed?
-- Rumors are widespread, but people who listen to Radio Liberty and read independent press know more. After fly-sheets were distributed in Zhodzina, people started phoning to us. Workers of “BelAZ” car factory phoned and expressed their solidarity. Many youth work there including graduates of Zhodzina Polytechnics. We know one another quite well and keep contacts.
-- What was the official formulation why Siarhiei Murashka was remanded from Zhodzina Polytechnics?
-- “To remand from the polytechnics for violation of the rules of the internal regulations, being guided by the rules adopted by the pedagogical council (protocol #21 of 12 May 2005),” – reads the order, signed by the director P. Talierchyk. Siarhiei Murashka always received excellent marks and received enhanced scholarship for this reason.
-- What was the violation?
-- Participation in the “Chernobyl Way” meeting.
-- He was remanded for alleged violations of the internal regulations. He took part in the action of 26 April, Chernobyl Way, but it was after the end of the studies. He was remanded and a few days later the points that students can’t take part in unauthorized actions were introduced in the internal regulations of the polytechnics. Then all students were familiarized with this new rule. Later we found out that the polytechnics director made use of the old regulations when remanding Murashka. The rules were changed – now it is the duty of the Commission of Zhodzina town executive committee on the cases of minors to remand students.
Krasouski speaks of his friend with bitterness and sincerely worries about him. However, this situation is well familiar to Paviel as well. He was remanded from Minsk State Pedagogical University after the 10-days’ administrative arrest for participation in the action of 19 October at which he protested against the falsification of the results of the election and referendum. He was not only arrested for his protest, but was also deprived of the possibility to study at the second grade of the historical faculty.
Siarhiei Murashka, his father and the polytechnics director P. Talierchyk were summoned to the Commission on the cases of minors. At the sitting it was found that the commission had already punished Murashka for participation in the action of 26 April with a warning. That’s why Zhodzina Town Executive Committee took no decision on this case and made an inquiry to the procurator’s office in order to find out whether it was legal to remand Murashka. The guy’s parents applied to the procurator’s office as well on 19 May. Now they are waiting for the answer.
-- My situation became the “last drop”. Many of my friends were remanded during this curriculum year. I was the last. It is the same as if I crossed the street on the red light and the next day I was told in the polytechnics: “Go away -- you don’t study here any more”.
-- Do you hope to be rehabilitated at the education?
-- Yes, I have much hope for it.
The pupils of the girls’ gymnasium of Zhodzina Natallia Maksimava and Volha Halubiets spoke in support of the hunger-strikers and Siarhiei Murashka. As a result they can be expelled from the gymnasium as well. The director Volha Nesan said to them it is better for them not to go there the next year. The pupil Natallia Maksimava also said that workers of Zhodzina KGB phoned and summoned her mother “for a talk”. They made her sign the statement, composed by a KGB worker that the hunger-strikers only used her name and the name of her daughter, but in reality she supported the present authorities.
Friends from Baranavichy joined the hunger-strikers. Siarhiei Marchyk, chairman of Baranavichy branch of Young Front came to Zhodzina on 27 May to join the action and support his friends. Some days ago Siarhiei Murashka had a terrible headache and he had to call an ambulance.
-- You are hungering for the sixth day already. How do you friends and relatives treat your participation in the action?
-- My friends and my brother support it, but parents… you know how they feel when their son hungers, the more than I have asthma and sometimes it is difficult for me to breeze.
-- In which case will you stop the hunger-strike?
-- I hope that the majority of our demands will be executed. Then the hunger-strike will be stopped. Otherwise it will have to be stopped at a hospital. Most probably, I’ll continue it in Baranavichy if I’ll have to return there. It would be good if we were supported, if people from different cities came and joined us.
During the talk a doctor came to examine the hunger-strikers. After one of them had to call for an ambulance, the executive committee ordered to conduct medical examination everyday. The chair of the therapeutic department of Zhodzina district polyclinics Volha Niedashkouskaia said:
-- All of them are in a good, stable health. I can say nothing bad. We have examined them for several days already.
According to the doctor, in the case if it is organized well, the hunger-strike won’t have a large impact on the health of the hunger-strikers in the future. One of them has gastritis, but at present all of them say they feel well. A man can live without food for 8-10 weeks. How long this experiment on the live of Belarusian teenagers can last?
The lawyer of Human Rights Center Viasna Valiantsin Stefanovich comments on the juridical side of the situation:
-- Is it legal to remand a student for participation in a protest action?
-- I think this decision is completely lawless. It is just an attempt to cover simple political persecution. The guy participated in Chernobyl Way because of his public and political views. The Constitution guarantees to our citizens the right to peaceful assemblies.
-- But he was accused in violation of “internal regulations”, wasn’t he?
-- His participation in a street rally can’t be called a violation of the internal regulations of an educational establishment, because internal regulations apply only to what happens in the building of the educational establishment and so on. One’s activity outside the territory of the educational establishment can be qualified only as violation of public order, not internal regulations. Moreover, the Code of Administrative Offences doesn’t demand from the police to submit to the places of people’s work or study information about detentions.
-- The prohibition to take part in unauthorized actions was introduced in the internal regulations of Zhodzina Polytechnics after Siarhiei Murashka was remanded. What can you say about it?
-- It means that at the moment of his remand there wasn’t such a point in the internal regulations and the law can’t retroact. I have many objections against this point. First of all, it limits the constitutional rights of citizens, whereas internal regulations must concern functioning of the educational establishment: the rules of behavior, the curriculum, etc. Demonstrations have nothing to do with it.
-- At present the hunger-strikers are waiting for the answer of the procurator’s office. How can the events develop after they receive it?
-- Procurator’s office is a state organ that controls legality. I think they applied on the right address. However, at present doesn’t stand for law and order which it must do. I think this case must reach the trial. For me the aspect of political persecution is evident.