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ESU issues a statement on the rights of Syrian students

BRUSSELS – Syrian students have the right to pursue their higher education, to study in a safe environment where their rights are respected under any circumstances, and to be represented by student unions in a fair way. A statement issued by the European Students’ Union (ESU) today underlines the importance of protecting Syrian students from persecution and harm, as many have been forced to flee their country or end abruptly their studies.

The Syrian war has now claimed more than 100.000 lives and students have faced many challenges for the past two years when pursuing higher education or defending their rights. Higher education institutions and students have been targeted several times by the combating parties, such as Aleppo University that was attacked on January 15 this year. ESU believes this is a recurrent strategy during armed conflicts meant to harm the population and a generation that represents the future of the country.

Independent representation needed

ESU is concerned that higher education institutions in Syria do not represent a safe environment anymore because students and student representatives are subjects to external manipulations, as Syrian student representatives have reported to ESU.

Indeed, some student representatives are taking sides in the conflict and using their status, connections and influence to fulfil political goals tracking down students (denouncing students, writing false reports about some students, physically harm students) who do not hold the same views about the current conflict. These behaviours underline the fact that times of conflict and tensions are times when students fight the hardest for their rights and need an independent student representation,” the statement reads.

Students have the right to organise

ESU would like to emphasise that students have the right to freely organise, but that they must also follow democratic principles. All student unions should be autonomous and free from external manipulations, especially from governments, and open to every student in their countries.

ESU condemns those Syrian representatives that wrongly use their positions and decide to represent only a part of Syrian students. ESU also strongly affirms that students in Syria are part of the resolution of the conflict by playing their role of active citizens inside and outside higher education institutions, bringing highly positive changes in Syria in the future. However, this can only happen if students do not fear persecution, which is not currently the case in Syria,” says the statement.

ESU supports scholarship systems

The future of students in Syria and of the country is severely harmed when students are forced to quit or flee. ESU would therefore like to push for finding solutions that allow students affected by the conflict to pursue their studies.

The European Students Union supports the plans of foreign governments to put in place scholarship systems for Syrian students and to ensure that they enjoy the same rights in the host countries as national students and that they have necessary access to student support services,” the statement ends.

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For more information, please contact:

Elisabeth Gehrke, ESU Vice-chairperson: +32/479.591.499 // or Robert Hlynur Baldursson, ESU Communications Manager: +32/473.669.894 //

The European Students’ Union, headquartered in Brussels, is the umbrella organisation of 47 national unions of students from 39 European countries. ESU represents and promotes the educational, social, economical and cultural interests of students at the European level. Through its member unions, ESU represents over 11 million students in Europe. To find out more about ESU, follow us on Twitter @ESUtwt, check out or Facebook page or visit ESU celebrates its 30th anniversary in 2012.


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