March Advocacy Insider: Ukraine, Nicaragua, and some good news!

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Posted: 27-03-2022 16:04 | Views: 347

Standing with Ukraine

“I feel that people like myself are targets of the Russian army. We’re the backbone of civil society. We’re the ones who usually stand up and speak our mind.”

Last week, Liz Shchepetylnykova, a Ukrainian scholar and PhD candidate, spoke about her forced departure from Ukraine. Her words, shared in an interview with University World News, capture the reason for Scholars at Risk’s existence: That those who dare to question and share ideas–often members of the higher education community–are frequently the target of attacks. This is a global problem, but one that we have seen most recently in Ukraine.

As the “backbone of civil society,” these scholars, students, and other members of the higher education sector require support, advocacy, and protection. We are grateful to you for the support you and your institutions have already offered to those impacted by the war. For more information on ways to get involved, please:

  1. Read Scholars at Risk’s statement in solidarity with the people of Ukraine and Ukrainian higher education.
  2. Review and refer individuals to this resource list for at-risk individuals from Ukraine, including fellowship opportunities, visa and transit resources, and digital security resources.
  3. Apply for assistance from SAR.
  4. Donate to SAR if you are in a position to support scholars and practitioners affected by the conflict in Ukraine.

Thank you for all you do,

Clare Robinson
Advocacy Director

SAR to Nicaragua's President Ortega: Restore institutional autonomy

Scholars at Risk sent a letter to Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and the National Council of Universities in response to the Nicaraguan National Assembly voting to strip the operating licenses of five of Nicaragua’s leading academic institutions (and nine other associations), and giving control of their operations to the government (read the report). Collectively, these universities enroll over 14,000 students.

In the letter, SAR urges that institutional autonomy be restored and protected, including returning leadership to their positions within the universities affected, and that decisions regarding university leadership, governance, staffing, curriculum, and related matters remain with members of the higher education community.

Read the Letter »
Take more action through SAR's Scholars-in-Prison ProjectStudent Advocacy Seminars, and Legal Clinics.

Bahraini scholar Khalil al-Halwachi released from prison

On February 3, Professor Khalil Al-Halwachi was released from Bahrain’s Jau Prison after serving seven years of a 10-year prison sentence. A scholar of engineering and a peaceful political activist, Professor Al-Halwachi was first arrested in September 2014 in apparent retaliation for his peaceful expression advocating for democratic reform in Bahrain. In March 2017, Professor Al-Halwachi was convicted on charges of “possession of a weapon,” and “insulting the judiciary,” charges that Professor Al-Halwachi maintains were fabricated in retaliation for his peaceful activism.

SAR welcomes news of his release, and we are grateful to everyone—members, Student Advocacy Seminars, Academic Freedom Legal Clinics, human rights organizations, and the global higher education community—who all took part in advocating for Professor Al-Halwachi.

Take more action through SAR's Scholars-in-Prison ProjectStudent Advocacy Seminars, and Legal Clinics.

Scholars at Risk calls for the release of CEU masters student Ahmed Samir Santawy

Scholars at Risk joined the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, and the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy in calling on Egyptian authorities to immediately release detained Central European University (CEU) postgraduate student, Ahmed Samir Santawy, and drop all charges against him.

Mr. Santawy was sentenced to four years in prison on unfounded charges related to his academic research. After Mr. Santawy’s lawyer submitted a petition to cancel the prison sentence, a retrial was ordered and began in February 2022. On March 14, the Egyptian Emergency State Security Court was to hold a second session in the retrial of Mr. Santawy, but the session was postponed to May 9, 2022.

In the letter, we renew our call for authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Mr. Santawy, drop all baseless charges against him, and investigate human rights violations he was subjected to during his detention. You can take action to support Mr. Santawy by signing this letter in your own name.

Read the Letter »
Take more action through SAR's Scholars-in-Prison ProjectStudent Advocacy Seminars, and Legal Clinics.

Upcoming: Student Advocacy Days

March 31st: Join Canada’s first Scholars at Risk Student Advocacy Day. The event, hosted in collaboration with the University of British Columbia’s Human Rights Collective, will bring together Canadian students at all academic levels, SAR Student Advocacy Seminars, as well as community members across Canada to discuss and learn about key areas of concern and advocacy relating to academic freedom. The event will include an opening address on solidarity, individual roundtable discussions on focus regions, interactive workshops, and a keynote panel. Register here.

Learn More »


April 7th - 8th: Scholars at Risk’s annual event, US Student Advocacy Days, will take place in Washington, DC, on April 7-8. Participation is open to Student Advocacy Seminar students and faculty. Seminar participants will meet with Members of Congress regarding imprisoned scholars’ cases. Students will workshop next steps in advocacy with SAR staff, and learn from civil society partners also working on case advocacy. Please contact Clare Robinson at for more information.

Learn More »
Take more action through SAR's Scholars-in-Prison ProjectStudent Advocacy Seminars, and Legal Clinics.

Academic freedom under attack

RUSSIA: Government orders expulsion of students
St. Petersburg State University, Russia, 3/9
Russia’s Ministry of Internal Affairs ordered St. Petersburg State University to expel 13 students who participated in anti-war protests following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Read more »
UKRAINE: Russian forces attack academic institute
Kharkiv Institute of Physics and Technology, Ukraine, 3/6
Russian soldiers attacked the Kharkiv Institute of Physics and Technology amidst its invasion of and armed aggression against Ukraine. The rocket attack left an unspecified number of individuals wounded and caused significant damage to an atomic physics laboratory and the Ukraine Neutron Source.
Read more »
AFGHANISTAN: Taliban forces detain university professor
Unknown, Afghanistan, 3/4
Taliban forces detained university professor and political analyst Sayed Baqir Mohsini, who had been publicly critical of the Taliban in the past.
Read more »
UKRAINE: Russian forces destroy university building
V.N. Karazin Kharkiv National University, Ukraine, 3/2
Russian armed forces fired a missile that hit V.N. Karazin Kharkiv National University’s Faculty of Economics, destroying the building. It is not clear whether there were any injuries or fatalities associated with the attack.
Read more »
BANGLADESH: Student group attacks protesting student and university faculty
Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Science and Technology University, Bangladesh, 2/24
Students and university personnel protesting the gang rape of a student were reportedly attacked, with at least 30 protesters injured.
Read more »
UNITED STATES: Multiple universities receive bomb threats
Various, United States, 2/1
More than a dozen Historically Black Colleges and Universities throughout the United States received a series of bomb threats, disrupting classes and forcing law enforcement to respond.
Read more »
INDIA: Police use force against protesters
Bangalore University, India, 3/31
Police used force against students protesting on the Bangalore University campus. Sources indicate that an argument broke out between the two student groups, apparently over a dispute relating to permission to protest on campus.
Read more »

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