One Step Forward and One Step Backward on Free Speech and Political Engagement for Students

Political activity and university campuses have gone hand in hand since at least the 1960s. Major universities in the United States, including Berkeley and Columbia, held massive student movements discussing and protesting an assortment of political issues. Internationally, France had a massive protest, and first wildcat general strike, that started with student occupation, and Iran’s Green Movement had the University of Tehran as one of its cores.

This history feeds well with OSCE’s work to promote student activism through debates. The OSCE is coordinating university debate teams to challenge each other on important social issues in Armenia. These debates will help train the next leaders of Armenia with nuanced understanding of key issues while educating (and hopefully entertaining) audiences.

On the flip side, the Minister of Education has banned political activity on university campuses. This ban will continue until the presidential elections and applies to all parties. While facially neutral, in reality this will harm the opposition as it strips one of the key sources of political energy, universities, from them. While it does the same for the Republicans, the Republicans don’t need to hold rallies to win; the Republicans just need to stop the opposition from holding rallies to win. The deck is already heavily stacked against the opposition and this is just one more method the government is using to cement that advantage.

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Filed under Elections, Human Rights

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