9 February 2017, Anife Muzafarova
Yurov brings human rights back to “Soviet Union” zone
Human rights defender Andrey Yurov visited The Hague University of applied sciences last December for a lecture on the conflict in Ukraine/Quo Vadis Russia. Students from The Political Engagement Society of HHS decided to go deeper and ask more questions to mister Yurov.
What brought you to The Hague?
“An international event dedicated to the development of human rights standards in conflict areas of South Caucasus and beyond. Held partly as a conference and partly as a series of round-table discussions. The event was attended by the representatives of Abkhazia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Nagorno-Karabakh, South Ossetia.
We discussed the ways to involve the UN, the OSCE, the Council of Europe, and other international organizations into resolving regional human rights issues, as well as the general standards under which those organizations could work on territories with special status.
Notwithstanding historical differences, the problems people face on said territories today are pretty much the same. Most of the territories are de-facto not subject to the international law – though de-jure they are -; most of the territories are difficult to visit, especially when it comes to international experts, lawyers, independent journalists, and human rights defenders.
The participants of the discussion came up with a few ideas which we plan to present to international governmental and non-governmental organizations.”
What would you like to share with Dutch students and academic circles?
“A few ideas related to non-formal education that we have recently discussed with our Dutch partners might be of some interest. The first one is a so-called “Students’ WEI (West East Initiative) for Human Rights”. The initiative is aimed at finding students in Western Europe ready to get involved in human rights activities for the post-soviet regions.
The second one, “University WEI for Human Rights”, aims at finding faculties and universities interested in cooperation with their peer institutions in Eastern Europe and Central Asia in such areas as the rule of law, humanitarian law, human rights, etc. The cooperation shall be characterized by interdisciplinary approach, involving such subjects as, inter alia, politics, international relations, journalism, psychology, et cetera.”
I read that back in 1998 you became one of the founders of the International Youth Human Rights Movement (YHRM). What happened to the organization by now?
“YHRM is still more or less alive, though it is actually not an organization as such. It is a network, a generation project connecting young people from different cities and countries sharing humanitarian values and committed to bring a real change both to the world we live in, as well as to the good of human rights defense in all our countries.”
You are also the head of the International School of Human Rights and Civic Actions: how do they study in your school?
“The fact is that the International School of Human Rights and Civic Actions is international in the very direct sense of the word. It is situated wherever its trainers come to. In fact, there is a vast variety of short-term and long-term programs taking place in different cities. Unfortunately, not all of our trainers are capable of delivering long seminars in English, so some programs now can only be attended by Russian-speakers; hopefully that would change.
The School was designed as a unified international non-formal education platform, its programs aiming at journalists, teachers, lawyers, civic servants and students from the OSCE region committed to civic and humanitarian values and ready to act for the good of such.”
Is it true that you are a non-Grata person in Ukraine, one of your target countries?
“No, it is not. I was non-grata for about two weeks in mid February 2014, at the very end of the Yanukovich regime. In November 2013 I was among the founders of the International Human Rights Group on the Situation in Ukraine. During those days of unrest, we worked both in the capital and in different regions of the country. The non-political, humanitarian work we did became the cause for my exile by the Yanukovich’s officials. Soon after, on February, 25, I became “grata” again.” (smiling)
“As soon as I could enter the country, my Ukrainian friends asked me to go to Crimea to observe the situation. On the 5th of March, some time before the so-called Supreme Council of Crimea proclaimed independence. That was how I became the head of the Crimean Field Mission on Human Rights.
If you have any related questions or want to know more regarding Students’ WEI (West East Initiative), do not hesitate to contact Andrey Yurov: firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also get in touch with him via Twitter.
About Andrey Yurov
Andrey Yurov is a human rights defender, philosopher and trainer. He is director of Strategic Programs of the Moscow Helsinki Group on education and network development, Honorary President of the International Youth Human Rights Movement, and an expert for the Council of Europe. He is a laureate of the Moscow Helsinki Group’s award for the promotion of human rights among young people. Andrey Yurov is an expert in human rights education and has run more than 300 trainings and seminars on human rights and civil society in the last 10 years. Moreover, he is an expert in advocacy and human rights defense and has been the initiator of many human rights and civil society initiatives in Russia and neighboring countries.