Home>Meeting Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya: Building a World Based on Truth, Rules and Respect

11.10.2022

Meeting Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya: Building a World Based on Truth, Rules and Respect

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Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya à Sciences Po (crédits : Thomas Arrivé)

Friday, 7 October, the students of Sciences Po’s Paris School of International Affairs (PSIA) were part of an historical encounter with Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, leader of the Belarus democratic opposition. Indeed, the discussion was held on the very day when her fellow countryman and pro-democracy colleague Ales Bialiatski received the Nobel Peace Prize 2022. Ales Bialiatski’s human rights association Viasna documents the torture of political prisoners, just like another winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, the Human Rights organisation Memorial, documents Russian history. Its President, Elena Zhemkova, received a Doctor Honoris Causa from Sciences Po in June 2022, symbolising Sciences Po’s strong attachment to academic freedom and democracy. Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya graced her student audience with her moving words and fierce values in an address that focused on the defense of human rights, the importance of rules and her belief in young generations.

The global fight for human rights

The leader of the democratic opposition in Belarus paid tribute to her compatriot Ales Bialiatski, currently imprisoned in his country although “his words continue to live”. She was the voice of the Nobel Peace Award winner on this special bittersweet day, a prize that also “bears the name of Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya”, stated Arancha González, Dean of PSIA. 

The guest speaker went on to express her emotion at seeing such “a symbol of the global fight for human rights” being internationally recognised. She recounted her personal experience: she was an “ordinary housewife and mother of two” only a few years ago, but when her husband was locked down for his political views, she stood up and ran for President of her country in 2020. People voted for her, they “voted for freedom”. Her protest against the obvious electoral fraud, Lukashenko being re-elected by over 80%, made her a target and she had to flee to Lithuania. 

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya demands freedom for her people. She explained that human rights defenders, journalists, intellectuals… are all in jail in Belarus. “Speaking the truth is dangerous” and more than 50.000 people have been imprisoned at some point in time in Belarus. She feels her role is “to give a voice” to those that cannot speak, that cannot act, that can only dream, for her husband Sergei, for Alès Bialiatski. 

Dictators don’t play by the rules

The leader of the democratic opposition recalled that the most anxious feeling in Belarus was the possibility of “being accused of anything at any moment of time”. She stretched the importance of the rules, “as human beings, our actions have consequences”. Without rules, living in a society is impossible, there is “no basic trust” and “anything can happen”. She believes that “we need trust to function as nations and humans” and “in Belarus, there is no trust, no rules”.

Dictators don’t play by the rules”, and if they have no shame lying to their citizens, why wouldn’t they lie to the rest of the world? Thus, a threat towards democracy and freedom is not only a local issue for Belarus or for Ukraine, it concerns everyone. Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya believes that dictators want “the world to feel insecure, that’s what they try to accomplish, they try to fill us with fear so we don’t react, but it won’t work because we are stronger than that.”

Together, we can change the world

The guest speaker of PSIA, a School invested in giving its students from all over the globe tools to understand and act on the world they live in, expressed her hope to see who was the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, it gives her hope to one day free her loved ones. She urged the young generation to imagine the world they will build with the students and researchers in Belarus, “the future leaders” who are beautiful minds sitting in prison. It’s important for the future generations to believe that, “Together, we can change the world, together, we can defeat tyranny”.

She replied to a fellow student from Belarus who wondered what young people like her can do, explaining that they need to study hard and to bring back this knowledge to their country when it will be free. Belarus will need specialists, people acquainted with democratic institutions. She hopes young people studying abroad can find, like she did, that their “heart belongs to Belarus” and that “higher purpose” to help the “whole country”. She asked international universities, just like Sciences Po is already doing, to welcome students from Belarus and foreign democracies to allow future public officers from Belarus to learn about their institutions.

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya ended her lecture with a promise that she will tell her husband about this “beautiful place”, about the “warm welcome she received”. Above all, what mattered to her was meeting the leaders of tomorrow, who will build a “better world, based on truth, rules and respect”.

MORE INFORMATION:

DOWNLOAD OUR BROCHURE

Sciences Po at 150

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Moving fluidly between past, present and future narratives, throughout 2022, Sciences Po draw on its history to look ahead to its future in a range of different formats and media.

Discover the 150 years website (FR).

11.10.2022

Meeting Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya: Building a World Based on Truth, Rules and Respect

alt
Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya à Sciences Po (crédits : Thomas Arrivé)

Friday, 7 October, the students of Sciences Po’s Paris School of International Affairs (PSIA) were part of an historical encounter with Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, leader of the Belarus democratic opposition. Indeed, the discussion was held on the very day when her fellow countryman and pro-democracy colleague Ales Bialiatski received the Nobel Peace Prize 2022. Ales Bialiatski’s human rights association Viasna documents the torture of political prisoners, just like another winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, the Human Rights organisation Memorial, documents Russian history. Its President, Elena Zhemkova, received a Doctor Honoris Causa from Sciences Po in June 2022, symbolising Sciences Po’s strong attachment to academic freedom and democracy. Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya graced her student audience with her moving words and fierce values in an address that focused on the defense of human rights, the importance of rules and her belief in young generations.

The global fight for human rights

The leader of the democratic opposition in Belarus paid tribute to her compatriot Ales Bialiatski, currently imprisoned in his country although “his words continue to live”. She was the voice of the Nobel Peace Award winner on this special bittersweet day, a prize that also “bears the name of Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya”, stated Arancha González, Dean of PSIA. 

The guest speaker went on to express her emotion at seeing such “a symbol of the global fight for human rights” being internationally recognised. She recounted her personal experience: she was an “ordinary housewife and mother of two” only a few years ago, but when her husband was locked down for his political views, she stood up and ran for President of her country in 2020. People voted for her, they “voted for freedom”. Her protest against the obvious electoral fraud, Lukashenko being re-elected by over 80%, made her a target and she had to flee to Lithuania. 

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya demands freedom for her people. She explained that human rights defenders, journalists, intellectuals… are all in jail in Belarus. “Speaking the truth is dangerous” and more than 50.000 people have been imprisoned at some point in time in Belarus. She feels her role is “to give a voice” to those that cannot speak, that cannot act, that can only dream, for her husband Sergei, for Alès Bialiatski. 

Dictators don’t play by the rules

The leader of the democratic opposition recalled that the most anxious feeling in Belarus was the possibility of “being accused of anything at any moment of time”. She stretched the importance of the rules, “as human beings, our actions have consequences”. Without rules, living in a society is impossible, there is “no basic trust” and “anything can happen”. She believes that “we need trust to function as nations and humans” and “in Belarus, there is no trust, no rules”.

Dictators don’t play by the rules”, and if they have no shame lying to their citizens, why wouldn’t they lie to the rest of the world? Thus, a threat towards democracy and freedom is not only a local issue for Belarus or for Ukraine, it concerns everyone. Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya believes that dictators want “the world to feel insecure, that’s what they try to accomplish, they try to fill us with fear so we don’t react, but it won’t work because we are stronger than that.”

Together, we can change the world

The guest speaker of PSIA, a School invested in giving its students from all over the globe tools to understand and act on the world they live in, expressed her hope to see who was the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, it gives her hope to one day free her loved ones. She urged the young generation to imagine the world they will build with the students and researchers in Belarus, “the future leaders” who are beautiful minds sitting in prison. It’s important for the future generations to believe that, “Together, we can change the world, together, we can defeat tyranny”.

She replied to a fellow student from Belarus who wondered what young people like her can do, explaining that they need to study hard and to bring back this knowledge to their country when it will be free. Belarus will need specialists, people acquainted with democratic institutions. She hopes young people studying abroad can find, like she did, that their “heart belongs to Belarus” and that “higher purpose” to help the “whole country”. She asked international universities, just like Sciences Po is already doing, to welcome students from Belarus and foreign democracies to allow future public officers from Belarus to learn about their institutions.

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya ended her lecture with a promise that she will tell her husband about this “beautiful place”, about the “warm welcome she received”. Above all, what mattered to her was meeting the leaders of tomorrow, who will build a “better world, based on truth, rules and respect”.

MORE INFORMATION:

DOWNLOAD OUR BROCHURE

Sciences Po at 150

alt

Moving fluidly between past, present and future narratives, throughout 2022, Sciences Po draw on its history to look ahead to its future in a range of different formats and media.

Discover the 150 years website (FR).