Lecturer forced to leave Belarus

July 29, 2005

US academic Terry Boesch describes hearing the news that his Belarusian visa had been withdrawn after two years of teaching at the Belarus State University in Minsk as "like having to attend my own funeral".

Professor Boesch had filed what he thought would be a routine visa renewal, but was told by the university's international department that this had been denied and that the Government expected him to leave the country that day.

No state representatives were present nor was he given the routine printed notice obliging him to leave. He was unable to leave immediately as his passport was at the state visa office. He left for neighbouring Lithuania six days later with his family.

Professor Boesch, who taught law and business studies, told The Times Higher that the only explanation for his expulsion he could think of was that it was the start of a new blanket clampdown on foreigners in the run-up to next year's presidential elections.

But Alan Flowers, a lecturer at Kingston University, who was expelled from Belarus about a year ago, dates the clampdown on academics as having started after the presidential election of 2001.

"The most surprising thing about Professor Boesch's expulsion is that he was surprised," Dr Flowers said. "I was aware from late 2003 that it would happen to me sooner or later, and I made my preparations accordingly."

Dr Flowers's activities had included organising English-language debating clubs for students, which the regime considered potentially subversive.

Professor Boesch stressed that he had always tried to co-operate with the Belarusian state authorities. He had never publicly criticised the regime, he said, nor had any dealings with opposition activists.

"I don't even know the names of any opposition leaders," he said. He told The Times Higher that he had devised law and business courses.

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