International Student Peace Movement Kicks off in St. Petersburg

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The call for politicians from across the globe to stop confrontation and start working towards diplomatic solutions has been supported by youth from many other cities and states.

On Wednesday, November 17, the St. Petersburg Mining University Student Council put forward an initiative to establish the international non-political Student Voice movement. It advocates the peaceful resolution of inter-state disputes, diplomacy, and a global environment of trust, which has increasingly been replaced by escalating mutual hostility in recent years.

The timing of this step was not coincidental. On this day in 1939, the Nazis arrested more than 1,200 young Czech activists for their participation in demonstrations against Nazism. Many of them were executed in prison, while others were sent to concentration camps. Two years later, the date was declared International Day of Student Solidarity.

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"We believe that today, more than ever, we need to restore the significance of this date. And make it the starting point for restoring the principles of unity and solidarity from which the international community is drifting further and further away," says Ildar Fazilov, a postgraduate student at St. Petersburg Mining University. "In a little while, we will be not on the brink of a cold war, yet a genuine war. Given the huge nuclear arsenal accumulated by mankind, this may lead to unpredictable consequences one would not even want to think about. We often hear the phrase 'the world belongs to the young.' But do we often hear the voice of youth? Not at all. The "world leaders" decide for us, who are not always guided by the principles of humanism in society."

He also pointed out that the initiative is not directed against any specific politician. Young people are opposed to the war policy as a whole and to the short-sightedness of those officials and deputies who do not prioritise their work for development, but rather to some totally different, incomprehensible principles driven, first and foremost, by greed for gain.

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The project was presented at the venue of the Multifunctional Gornyi Complex, attended by over 2,000 undergraduate and postgraduate students of the university. Among them were not only Russians but also foreigners, many of whom took the idea to heart. For example, Abodiab Ali from Syria took the stage and began by saying that his country "has the resources, the climate and all the possibilities for a rich future". However, "war, terrorism, economic crisis and sanctions have destroyed all prospects".

"Our average salary is $30 a month; many children don't know what school is at all because they were born in territory controlled by terrorists. According to UN statistics, almost 2.5 million Syrians receive no education. And over 90% live below the poverty line. No one wants that, and I don't wish that for anyone," said Abodeab Ali.

His Lebanese counterpart Salameh Ali compared his state to a football field on which "the greats of this world" play. But not the Lebanese themselves. This is because "the government consists of parties that represent the interests of other powers and not those of their own people».

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"There used to be 15 Lebanese studying at Mining University, but now only three of us are left. The rest just didn't have time to exchange money and go to St. Petersburg. Because at one "beautiful" moment, all the money we had in our banks became unavailable. And the dollar exchange rate went up 20 times. For many families, it was a real shock; they could not recover from this blow," said Salameh Ali.

Ali Abdul Baki Murtaza from Afghanistan believes his country is ruled by "men who are good at religious matters but much worse at political matters". Many residents, especially young people, are going abroad because of this, "as they want to move forward, develop and study". And this, of course, is not good for economic development.

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"Wages are often issued not in money but in products, such as wheat; imports and exports have fallen to almost zero. You can get a maximum of 400 dollars a month from the banks. Girls don't study at all, but young men, too, don't find understanding when they say they want to study", Ali Abdul Baki Murtaza said of the situation in his country.

According to the students, all these examples are due to one common cause – the lack of understanding between politicians from different countries. They are unwilling to listen to the public in their own country, not to mention other countries. That is why the St. Petersburg Mining University Student Council urged the audience and representatives of other Russian and foreign universities to join the new social movement, which is intended to change the situation.

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"Students from over a hundred states have come to study at our university. The fragile, divided world threatens everything we believe in and have chosen to dedicate ourselves to... We have the capability not just to speak but to act. And we also have the right to make decisions because the future that is being built today is the one we will live in. Join in! The Student Voice matters," the declaration adopted at the end of the meeting reads.

The participants, who were interviewed after the meeting, described the idea of creating an international, non-political movement as "good and kind," "oriented towards a positive and different type of social relations than we have today". According to them, "our world desperately needs this kind of initiative", and therefore "they can't evoke any emotions except approval».

Students of other Russian universities, which are members of the Nedra University Consortium, have already expressed their readiness to join the movement. Amongst them are the following: Almetyevsk Oil Institute, Grozny State Oil Technical University named after Millionshikov, MGRI named after Sergo Ordzhonikidze, Ufa Aviation Technical University, and others.

The final resolution text has been translated into five languages and sent to the youth associations of the partner universities. These include Freiberg University of Mining and Technology, the Technical University of Munich, the University of Leoben, China University of Mining and Technology and others. The total number of participants in the Student Voice movement worldwide is expected to reach 2.5 million.

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