Student NGOs protest anti-government allegations
The country’s three leading NGOs working for students’ rights have sent a collective appeal to the Belarusian State Medical University about a message posted on VKontakte social network by a representative of University’s Student Self-Government Coordination Council.
Studrada, Brotherhood of Students’ Self-Government Organizers and the Center for the Development of Student Initiatives, all officially registered, say that the message accused them of criminal activities labeling the NGOs “unauthorized organizations”. The publication instructs group monitors to warn the students against membership in these organizations, saying that they are “misleading forces of anti-government nature”.
The appeal notes that according to Art. 36 of the Constitution everyone has the right to freedom of association. According to Art. 31 of the Code on Education, students have the right to participate in the activities of trade unions, youth organizations and other voluntary associations, whose activities are not contrary to the law. “The authorities have never mentioned any illegal activities by our organizations,” says the letter.
The NGOs argue that no ideological differences in the activities of the organizations and the Coordinating Council may be used to label the former as “unauthorized”. In addition, such terms as an “unauthorized organization” and “anti-government activities” do not exist in the Belarusian legislation.
Administrators of a community called “Students Against” have called the charges a “witch hunt”.
“These actions once again demonstrate the narrow minds of university officials and their reluctance to treat students as individuals, adult and independent persons. For us it is laughable, as the administration and all those involved in this have once again disgraced themselves and the system of higher education in Belarus,” says the community.