Education at risk in Gaza

Today’s REUTERS article gives an overview of the disastrous situation of education in Gaza, including academics and academic institutions, since the Israel-Hamas war. The article quotes Wesam Amer, Dean of the Faculty of Communication and Languages at Gaza University, as saying: “The challenges of the day after the war aren’t only about the infrastructure, university buildings. It is about the dozens of academics who have been killed in the war and the tough task trying to make up for them or replace them.”

Veronika Durin-Hornyik, PhD

Fabienne Bock (1944-2023): ”A woman who broke down barriers, a citizen against barriers”

With these words, the well-known French historian and feminist activist Michelle Perrot concluded her article dedicated to her colleague and friend, Fabienne Bock. The article, alongside other testimonies, appeared in the December 2023 issue of Raison présente, of which Bock was the main editor, to pay tribute to her memory.

An emeritus professor in contemporary history and historian of French parliamentarism, Fabienne Bock passed away in Paris on 2 November 2023. She was my doctoral supervisor, and I was her last PhD student.

On this day six years ago, I defended my dissertation at the University of Marne-la-Vallée in France and became a Doctor in History. Today, I dedicate this post to the memory of Fabienne Bock. Her career and commitment, her supervision of my research, and our friendship were all sources of inspiration.

Madame Bock—as I always called her, although to her colleagues she was simply Fabienne—began her career as a high school history teacher at the Lycée Jean Macé in Vitry-sur-Seine, in the south-eastern suburbs of Paris. Her career was shaped by the events in May 1968, the most important social movement in France in the 20th century, which began as a spontaneous anti-authoritarian student protest and quickly spread throughout the whole country as an egalitarian effort. Following the riots, in order to reduce the number of students in central Paris, the French government decided to create new universities, including Université Paris 7. Located on the Jussieu campus in the heart of the Rive gauche, Paris 7 was characterised by its multidisciplinary approach based on a tripartite alliance of medicine, science, and literature. Young historians joined the new university and, as it was short of staff, more professors were recruited, including Fabienne Bock.

Soon after her arrival in 1973, Bock and her female colleagues (Michelle Perrot, Pauline Schmitt) launched a course dedicated to women’s history called “Do women have a history?”. According to Michelle Perrot, the brand-new Université Paris 7 was a “fairly leftist and feminist university” and a defender of the MLF (Women’s Liberation Movement, which fought for women’s bodily autonomy and challenged patriarchal society). The institution was involved in the struggle for abortion rights after the Bobigny trial in 1972, which was a milestone in decriminalising abortions in France. Today, this is particularly relevant: on 4 March 2024, France became the first country in the world to explicitly include the right to abortion in its constitution.

The course on women’s history at Jussieu questioned unprecedented issues in French historiography. Michelle Perrot recalls: “What struck me was the silence of women and women in history. They were the great absentees from the historical narrative. Even the great Simone de Beauvoir, the revered author of Le Deuxième Sexe (1949), wrote that women had no history, that all women’s history had been made by men, thus confusing what happened (where women have always been) with the story we tell (where they are not): story and history, as the English say. Activism was not enough. It was necessary to question knowledge and its aporias, as Michel Foucault did about madness and prisons. We had to dismiss the shadows, break the silence, seek out and make women appear. Beyond that, we had to understand the evolution of male-female relations throughout history: a major subject that has almost never been tackled.”

Apart from contributing to opening the discourse on women’s history in France, Bock focused on political history, particularly conflicts and wars, which intersected with economic, personal, legal, and institutional history. She was also interested in the history of the Third World and the former colonies. In 1989, under the supervision of Michelle Perrot, she wrote her thesis for the third cycle (thèse de 3e cycle) on the French pedagogical movement led by Célestin Freinet during the interwar period. In 1998, she defended her doctoral thesis (thèse d’État) under the supervision of the French historian and politician Jean-Noël Jeanneney on the role and functioning of the French Parliament in 1914-1918. Her dissertation, published in French in 2002 (Un parlementarisme de guerre, 1914-1918) made her a specialist in WW1 and a pioneer in French parliamentary history. In recognition of her work, she was one of the speakers at the conference held by the French Senate on 19 June 2014 to commemorate the centenary of WW1.

In 1991, Fabienne Bock joined the newly created University of Marne-la-Vallée (today University Gustave Eiffel), a branch of Paris 7 in the eastern suburbs of Paris, which had been established alongside three other universities in the greater Paris region. She enthusiastically took up the challenge of teaching in an autonomous and innovative way for geographically and sociologically marginalised youth. From 1993, she directed the history major in the Humanities and Social Sciences Department while leading a small group of historians. In 1997, the university was given permanent status. Bock helped set up a small research unit in 2000, which was renamed “Comparative Analysis of Power” (Analyse comparée des pouvoirs) in 2003. Today, this multidisciplinary research unit has 36 members, 26 PhD students, and a number of associate members who share a common research focus on power.

My personal acquaintance with Madame Bock dates back to the spring of 2007. I was in my first year of research for my master’s degree in history, on a fellowship from the Île-de-France French Regional Council. My supervisor was Professor Georges Lomné, a long-time colleague of Bock, who had been her first PhD student at the University of Marne-la-Vallée back in 2002. However, Professor Lomné left for Lima, Peru, to head the French Institute of Andean Studies and asked his colleague to take me on. The first time I met her, she gave me a paper written on the cultural Cold War. Sixteen years later, I still have it with me.

Madame Bock appreciated the research I had begun on the under-researched Free Europe University in Exile. It was an American Cold War asset set up in France in 1951 to provide fellowships for young eastern European refugees and thus to train an intellectual elite in the event that the Soviet regime collapsed behind the Iron Curtain. During my second year of research for my master’s degree, she also invited me to join a research project that she was leading on the petitionary movements addressed to the French Assembly from 1815-1944.

After obtaining my master’s degree in history and settling in Paris at the end of 2009, Madame Bock strongly encouraged me to continue my research. Thanks to her support and a successful presentation before the Scientific Committee of the University of Paris-Est, I became a contractual PhD student in the “Comparative Analysis of Powers” research unit in October 2010. I was also awarded international mobility fellowships by my doctoral school and research unit to conduct research in the US while I presented papers at international conferences. Madame Bock, together with Madame Geneviève Bührer-Thierry, the director of the research unit at the time, supported me in applying for mobility grants and to access libraries and archives around the world.

Over the years, we became very close. Madame Bock knew my French husband and came to Budapest for our wedding. Her wedding gift was a print entitled “Le grand Louvre” (see below), painted by her friend and artist Pascale Hémery. Madame Bock, who was extremely generous, kind, and open, was at the same time very discreet and did not talk much about her private life. She confided to me at the wedding that her late husband was supposedly of Hungarian origins: his name “Caroli” was probably originally “Károlyi”. I knew her house, surrounded by a huge park in Rueil, and when she moved to her apartment on Île Saint Louis in Paris, we lived within walking distance of each other. I will never forget our conversations about politics, history, and research, her rich voice, and the smell of her cigars.

Meanwhile, my personal journey turned out to be more challenging than expected: I had my first child in 2013, I finished my law studies and became a lawyer in Hungary in 2015, and I moved to Munich in Germany in 2016 to follow my expatriate husband. Madame Bock always talked about Berlin and her friends living there, who were the witnesses at her wedding. She planned a visit to Munich, but her health problems and the challenges I faced in settling down and finishing my PhD overruled our plan. “A defended PhD is better than an unfinished one”, Professor Lomné told me with a smile, reminding me of Madame Bock’s motto when I enrolled for the last time. Finally, on 15 March 2018, I defended my doctoral dissertation. In recognition of her unconditional support, I offered Madame Bock a bouquet of roses.

We kept in touch over the following years, and I updated her on my professional activities. In the summer of 2019, I met the French historian François David through Ioana Cirstocea and Ioana Popa, who together ran a research seminar on the history of the Cold War. Professor David was very much interested in my work and suggested that I outline a postdoctoral research plan. This gave me the idea of launching my “University in Exile Research Project” on academics and academic institutions in exile in the 20th-21st centuries. However, personal circumstances postponed devoting myself to research until 2022.

In the summer of 2022, quite unexpectedly, I moved to Australia with my family. My renewed status as an expat, along with my academic background and my own personal commitment have led me to stand up in solidarity with those who have been forced to leave their country. I am currently using my rich experience to help young refugees apply for scholarships and gain access to higher education. I am also working as a researcher on the history of women’s rights under the supervision of Professor Susan Kneebone at the University of Melbourne. Moreover, I have recently been accepted as a Visiting Fellow at the University of New South Wales in Sydney where my research is devoted to academics and academic institutions in exile.

Although I couldn’t tell Madame Bock about this new chapter of my life in Australia, I have aligned my professional life with her humanitarian commitment. As she warned in her 2017 article—entitled “A Walled World” and published in Raison présente—we live in a world that is constantly open to the free movement of capital, but not of people, especially refugees, asylum seekers, and those fleeing economic misery. Her impact as a female scholar has had a major influence on my academic achievements, along with Éva Martonyi (PPKE-BTK), Katalin Kadar Lynn (Helena History Press), Marie-Elizabeth Ducreux-Lakits (EHESS), and Susan Kneebone (Melbourne Law School).

Veronika Durin-Hornyik, PhD

What is the connection between Oppenheimer and my PhD research?

This week, I submitted an article to The Exile History Review to explain how the project to create a university for refugee youth, developed by Polish exiles, became a secret US psychological warfare weapon against the Soviet Union in the Cold War.

The key person in the story is James Burnham, a prominent American philosopher and writer, who worked secretly for the CIA to outline anticommunist projects. Burnham was well-connected with the US government and military, as well as the American intellectual elite. This enabled him to promote the Polish exiles’ university plan to the highest levels.

What all this has to do with J. Robert Oppenheimer?

In 1947, Oppenheimer became the director of the distinguished Institute for Advanced Study (IAS) at Princeton University. He was recruited by IAS board president Lewis Strauss. Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer (2023) features pivotal scenes that took place at the IAS between Strauss, the physicists Oppenheimer and Albert Einstein.

In late 1948, Burnham began promoting the university plan of the Polish exile group in the US. He first addressed the IAS, then headed by Oppenheimer, as evidenced in his letter to Joseph Czapski of Kultura Literary Institute.

Illustration: Courtesy of Kultura Literary Institute, Maisons-Laffitte, France

Refugee access to higher education in Australia

Today is World Refugee Day which falls each year on 20 June to honour refugees around the globe. It was held for the first time on 20 June 2001, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. This rights-based instrument is a cornerstone of international refugee protection and constitutes the legal basis for the access of refugees to education under Article 22.

Since 1998, Refugee Week is held every year around World Refugee Day. Founded in the United Kingdom, many countries joined this growing international movement in 2023 to raise awareness of refugees and asylum seekers through a program of arts, cultural, sports and educational events.

Refugee Week Australia dates back to the 1980s. This year, it hosts engaging discussions on refugees’ access to higher education.  Hon. Prof. Verity Firth, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Social Justice and Inclusion) at the University of Technology Sydney, led a panel session with scholars (Olga Oleinikova, Sally Baker, Tebeje Molla), advocate (Asher Hirst) and refugee student (Amir Ali Jalai Farahani) on Australian universities’ role in the humanitarian crisis. As an outcome of the panel discussion, an article was published to advocate more engagement in Australia following European examples. Another webinar discussed the topic of “Overcoming Barriers to Higher Education for Refugees and People Seeking Asylum”. Hosted by the National Council of Churches Refugee Taskforce, it presented two educational initiatives for refugees: the Deakin CREATE led by Dr Karen Dunwoodie and the Hope-Co-operative run by Sally Morgan. 

Veronika Durin-Hornyik, PhD

Historical record of a Cold War refugee student

I recently found this letter in the archives of the French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs (Quai d’Orsay) which was addressed to the First Lady of France, Madame Vincent Auriol, in July 1953. The writer of the letter is a young Armenian who had been living in a refugee camp for two years in the Free Territory of Trieste. He asked for help to get a fellowship to come to France to complete his university studies.

It is not only a unique source for my research on students in exile that demonstrates how relevant and important it is to investigate this issue from a historical perspective and in the current context. But first, it bears authentic and timeless witness what the free world and a fellowship mean for a refugee student.

Veronika Durin-Hornyik, PhD

A University in Exile for Russians?

Since Russia launched its “special military operation” on 24 February 2022 to demilitarize Ukraine, there have been 8,000 deaths and more than 13,000 injuries in Ukraine. Furthermore, the armed conflicts have forced 13 million Ukrainians to leave their homes, including 8 million refugees around the world and 5 million internally displaced people. This is an unprecedented refugee crisis since the end of World War II. University communities around the world have mobilized their efforts to help displaced Ukrainian scholars and students. For those who died in the war, the SUSK — Ukrainian Canadian Students’ Union ‒ organized a worldwide exhibition called “Unissued Diplomas” to commemorate the lost lives of Ukrainian students and remind the world that the full-scale war continues. The Russian-Ukrainian war affected not only Ukrainian individuals, but also Ukrainian universities,  which are now in a very complicated situation.

When Russia launched its offensive, many speculated about what might stop President Vladimir Putin waging war and, in the long term, put an end to his authoritarian regime. Mikhail Kokorich, a Swiss engineer and entrepreneur of Russian origin, published an article entitled “to hurt Putin, steal his top students”. Kokorich discussed how the West could undermine Russia’s long-term ability to wage war: by attracting Russia’s brightest minds, particularly young engineers, to pursue their education in the West. Actually, that wasn’t a fake expectation. Hundreds of thousands of people left Russia after the outbreak of the Russo-Ukrainian war in 2014, an unprecedented number since the Bolshevik revolution of 1917. These exiled Russians are not only well-educated ‒ many come from the IT sector ‒ but have a strong anti-war position and are politically active.

It is obvious that any kind of foreign educational initiative is literally condemned to death in Russia. The case of Smolny College is exemplar. The latter is an international Russian-American project that began in 1997 between the Faculty of Liberal Arts and Sciences of St Petersburg State University and the Bard College in New York. The Smolny College paved the path for the growth of liberal arts education across Russia and became the most robust Russian-American partnership in the higher education sphere. In the summer of 2021, the Prosecutor’s Office of the Russian Federation declared that Bard College is an “undesirable organization”, the first college or university in Russia to be so named. The Russian authorities considered that the program with a suspect name was carried out by Smolny with the help of foreign NGOs affiliated with the businessman and philanthropist George Soros and was conducting destructive activities on the territory of the Russian Federation. The dismantling of Smolny, Russian academic emigration of 2022 and support by Bard College allowed a group of Smolny faculty members, who were forced to leave Russia due to the war, to launch the Smolny Beyond Borders (SBB) educational initiative, which is running as a Russian university in exile.

As regards the educational initiatives implemented abroad for Russians, a free online platform was launched in 2016 by the exiled Russian businessman and opposition activist, Mikhail Khodorovsky. The aim of the Open University is to “equip young Russians with the tools needed to critically analyze the propaganda disseminated by Kremlin-controlled media outlets” as well as to develop “a variety of skills, which will be necessary to the formation and maintenance of a democratic Russia”. Online video lecture series attempt to improve the participants’ critical thinking skills, formulate their logical and rational political opinions, and learn to defend their civil and constitutional rights, while providing basic legal, historical, and economic structure of Russia.

Khodorovsky also co-founded the Anti-War Committee with well-known exiled Russians, such as Mikhail Kokorich, to hold Putin accountable for launching the invasion of Ukraine. The Anti-War Committee also supports the Kovcheg initiative to help Russian exiles through housing, legal advice, psychological advice, or education, including scholarships and internships. According to Kovcheg founder Anastasiya Burakova, the aim of her initiative is to enable newly exiled Russians to bring democratic changes to Russia: “We try to get them to do what they can from abroad to stop the war and speed up the collapse of the Putin regime. We hope they’ll go back and become the backbone of a democratic Russia.”

Russian political emigration is divided while Russian emigrants have historically been unwilling to form communities in exile and have attempted to assimilate. Although the new emigrees are more homogeneous and politically active, socio-cultural factors make it difficult to create a liberal democratic Russian mindset in exile. For this reason, Russian journalist and educator Boris Grozovski laid out the plan for a School of Democracy for Russian Refugees. The latter would provide Russian-language educational programs with two components: the first part “would focus on national specifics, on mastering the culture, literature, history, traditions, and customs of the host country” while “the second part would be more universal and would provide an introduction to political theory, philosophy, and social sciences, civic education, critical thinking, women’s rights, environmental and media literacy”.

The initiatives mentioned so far are all non-state, non-governmental actions. I believe that in the future attention should be given to an emerging set of state-led initiatives in favour of Russian exiles, namely in Germany. Last September, German ministers already indicated that people fleeing Russia could apply for asylum in Germany after the announcement of partial military mobilization by President Putin. Recently, the Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock gave an address on February 10 ‒ two weeks before the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine ‒ at the annual Foreign Policy Conference of the Heinrich Böll Stiftung. The latter is a political foundation affiliated to the German Green party whose co-leader was Baerbock from 2018 to 2022.

Baerbock based her speech on security, international cooperation, international law, and climate protection. After quoting the writer Heinrich Böll ‒ „Freedom is not a gift; it is something that is earned.” ‒ she outlined the German foreign policy for 2023. It consists in “enhancing international cooperation and strengthening international law; also in countries that, on account of their history or their geographic location, have particularly close connections with Russia”. As part of this policy, the German Government decided to coordinate intersocietal cooperation with the Southern Caucasus, the Republic of Moldova, and Central Asia. As regards Russia and Belarus, Baerbock stated to support democratic forces in these countries and in exile:

“Many courageous Russians who have expressed their opposition to this war are still there. Some of them have been locked up. However, they are there and they need dialogue more than ever. In Belarus, there are still more than 1500 political prisoners because Lukashenko is oppressing his own people. We’re creating specially tailored channels of communication and projects for these people, which neither Putin nor Lukashenko can destroy. The German Government is launching a round table with Russian civil society in exile to bring together exiled democratic Russian stakeholders so that they can actively campaign for a free, democratic Russia. We need to offer them something new these days. It’s more important than ever in this situation to offer them visas, scholarships and the opportunity to network online. At the same time, we also want to talk about how we can continue to support civil society in Russia. This year alone, we’re implementing more than 50 projects involving Russian NGOs and activists – not despite but because of Russia’s war of aggression. The political foundations are playing an important role in this. »

Veronika Durin-Hornyik PhD

Illustration: Open University

The Invisible University for Ukraine (Part 2): comparative study

The Invisible University for Ukraine (IUFU) is now accepting applications for its third semester, starting in spring 2023. The IUFU was launched by the Central European University (Budapest Campus) in April 2022 for Ukrainian undergraduate and graduate students whose studies were affected by the war, whether they still reside in Ukraine or are refugees. This non-degree, certificate program provides an education program in a hybrid format (online teaching and on-site summer/winter universities) with three components: thematic lecture courses in humanities and social sciences, mentoring, and skill-building with carrier support for future education.

The IUFU does not intend to replace or duplicate the existing education opportunities in Ukrainian universities. It supports Ukrainian educational institutions and its members (teachers and students) by connecting them to transnational networks “to counter the destructive effects of brain drain through creating access to educational infrastructure and academic knowledge for students irrespective of their current location”. The aim of the IUFU’s education program is “to study the role of Ukraine in changing European and global contexts, placing questions relevant for Ukrainian students into a transnational comparative perspective”.

The IUFU is part of the Central European University (CEU) and funded by philanthropic sources, mostly by the Open Society University Network and further American foundations, as well as the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). Its teaching staff includes teachers and researchers from the CEU, Ukrainian and German partner institutions, and other internationally recognized academics. The IUFU works in cooperation with universities in Ukraine and Germany while participating in the Ukrainian Global University initiative and exploring future partnerships with Ukrainian universities.

The IUFU defines itself as a transnational solidarity program. Its name was chosen as a reminder of the various clandestine and exiled educational initiatives in Eastern Europe that have existed throughout the 19-20th centuries, such as the “flying universities” and the “Invisible Colleges”.

Flying universities were informal education systems with underground classes organized by national teachers to national students to resist foreign occupation (i.e. Russification and Germanification in Poland during the 19th-early 20th century) or communist regimes (in Poland and Hungary during the 1970-1980s). Invisible Colleges were organized by the CEU after the fall of the Berlin Wall, first in Hungary in 1992 and later in other East European countries, to assist promising national students with scholarship, mentoring and academic support at national institutions, in lack of institutional framework.

If the new endeavor for Ukrainian scholars and students was named “Invisible University”, it could be due to three reasons. First, “flying universities” recall clandestine educational initiatives. Second, “Invisible University” refers more to the tradition of Invisible Colleges which the CEU set up in Central and Eastern Europe after 1989. Third, “invisible” also refers to the form of operation of the university that provides online classes and summer/winter universities.

Although the IUFU is built on the legacy of “flying universities” and “invisible colleges”, my argument is that it recalls another educational initiative – the Free Europe University in Exile. The latter was an American higher education initiative, implemented in France in 1951, to support Eastern European refugees who fled the communist takeover after WW2. The FEUE and its study center were funded by American philanthropic sources (National Committee for a Free Europe, Ford Foundation). The core operation was the FEUE’s study center called Free Europe College (Collège de l’Europe libre) in Strasbourg, France, which organized special educational training for the Eastern European refugees to complete their university studies. This special educational training consisted of national seminars for each nationality represented at the Free Europe College and summer universities with prominent Western and exiled scholars and public figures to discuss actual geopolitical issues and the future of Soviet bloc countries upon liberation. The FEUE and its study center were both publicly known and accredited educational institutions, but they did not deliver diplomas.

The Free Europe University in Exile was a three-sided educational endeavor, set up with American financial support in a host country to support refugee youth from Central and East Europe to resist Sovietization and train young liberals with a democratic spirit upon liberation. For this reason, the FEUE is very much in common with the Invisible University for Ukraine, which is implemented in the Budapest Campus of the CEU, funded by American philanthropic sources, in favor of Ukrainian academics and students at risk. Thanks to the online courses and following the aim “to counter the destructive effects of brain drain”, the IUFU can operate in Ukraine. It was unimaginable for the FEUE behind the Iron Curtain during the Cold War.

Nevertheless, the CEU’s Invisible University for Ukraine is not the only initiative for Ukrainian students at risk. The Kosciuszko Foundation ‒ founded in 2010 to support intellectual, scientific, and cultural exchange between Poland and the US ‒ also organized online academic courses for Ukrainian students in humanities and social sciences called Flying University Courses for Ukrainian Students (FUUS).

Veronika Durin-Hornyik PhD

Mourning for Maria Nowak (1935-2022)

I am mourning the loss of Maria Nowak, economist, pioneer of micro-credit in France following the footsteps of Muhammad Yunus, and Grand officer of the French Legion of Honor. I had the privilege to know her because of my PhD research in connection with her father. Antoni Nowak-Przygodzki (1897-1959) was a patriotic Polish solder and lawyer who fought throughout his life for a free and independent Poland. After WW2, he chose exile and brought his family from Poland to France. In 1952, he joined the Free Europe University in Exile (FEUE) in Strasbourg. The FEUE was founded in 1951 by the American anticommunist organization National Committee for a Free Europe to assist refugee students coming from the Iron Curtain with study grants and thus enable them to pursue their interrupted university studies because of the communist takeover in their respective countries and their escape to the West. Antoni Nowak-Przygodzki was head of the Polish exiled student group. Maria Nowak gave me an account of his father’s life and told me that she was a FEUE fellowship recipient during the year of 1955-1956. My article dealing with Antoni Nowak-Przygodzki and his archival records held at the Polish Library of Paris will be published in the next issue of the French historical review Matériaux pour l’histoire de notre temps, too late for Maria Nowak to read. I will always remember her kindness and the conference we held at the Polish Library of Paris in 2019 together with archivist Elzbieta Pajor. I offer my deepest and most sincere condolences to her family.

Veronika Durin-Hornyik PhD

Which future for Iran and young Iranians?

Air protest over Sydney on 29 October 2022

On Tuesday, November 15, Dr. Kylie Moore-Gilbert gave a talk on the occasion of the International Day of the Imprisoned Writer. The event was organized by Sydney PEN International at the New South Wales State Library. British-Australian academic, Moore-Gilbert was captured by the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in September 2018 and detained as a political prisoner on charges of espionage in Tehran’s Evin prison until November 2020. She is one of the signatories to an open letter entitled “J’accuse”, referring to Emile Zola’s famous article of 1898 in the Dreyfus affair to protest the abuse of authority. The open letter, dated of October 18 and signed by nearly one hundred Iranians in exile and Western supporters, is an unprecedented initiative that brought together the divided and dispersed Iranian opposition movement in exile. The signatories call on the “free world” to act and support the people of Iran in its struggle against dictatorship and four decades of oppression: “While Ukrainians are battling an outside invader, Iranians are fighting an inside enemy – the regime.” They praise the young Iranians who “are fighting for their life and they are fighting with their lives.”

Protests in Iran began on 16 September after Mahsa Amini’s funeral in Saqqez, in the western part of the country. The 22-year-old Kurdish woman, who had just been accepted to study at Urmia University in North-West Iran, was arrested by morality police in Tehran on 13 September for allegedly violating Iran’s rules requiring women to cover their hair with a headscarf. Amini was reportedly beaten by the police. The latter said that she suffered a heart attack. The footages released by the police to reject allegations enraged Iranians which led to nationwide protests against gender apartheid in Iran and ultimately against the Islamic Republic itself. According to Nazanin Boniadi, an Iranian-born actor and Amnesty International ambassador, there is something new emerging on the streets of Iran: “Never in my 14 years working on human rights advocacy I have witnessed such disillusionment with, and opposition to, the Islamic Republic Regime. While Iran has become accustomed to mass protests every decade, neither the student protests of 1999 nor the Green movement of 2009 or even more recently the November 2019 protests compare in fervour or magnitude to current protests.” (The Guardian Weekly, AU Edition, 14 October 2022)

The most unprecedented part is that the protests are female-led ‒ its slogan is “woman, life, freedom”, which is antithetical to the Islamic Republic ‒ and widely spread on university campuses. So far, nearly 500 demonstrators have died and nearly 15,000 people have been arrested, fearing public trials as the government seeks to suppress the demonstrations. Two Iranian journalists, who first reported the death of Amini, have been arrested and labelled as foreign CIA agents. They are now detained in Evin prison, also known as the University of Evin for imprisoning political dissidents and intellectual opponents of the Iranian regime.

Meanwhile, demonstrations in support of Iranian protesters were being held and continue around the world. On Saturday, October 22, the largest gathering in the history of Iranians opposing the Islamic Republic took place in Berlin. 80,000 demonstrators marched in the German capital, many of whom came from neighboring European countries. The demonstration was organized by the Association of Families of Victims of Flight PS752, named after the Ukraine International Airlines flight from Teheran to Kiev that was shot down by the Revolutionary Guards in January 2020. The spokesman of the demonstration was the association’s president, the Iranian-Canadian social activist Hamen Esmaeilion.

After the Arab Spring of 2011, Berlin has become the capital of the exiled Arabs, just like New York City of the 1930s for Jewish intellectuals who forced to flee Europe. In an essay published in 2019, the Egyptian sociologist Amro Ali called on Arab intellectuals to gather and launch an initiative in Berlin: “This may include a school of thought, political philosophy or even an ideational movement – all cross-fertilized through a deeper engagement with the Arab world.”

As for the future, “Iran will be democratic one day”, Shirin Ebadi said. The 2003 Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Iranian human rights activist received on October 21 the Honorary Award for Democracy and Freedom of the Human Rights Film Festival in Berlin “on behalf of the countless courageous women who protest the regime in Iran”. Ebadi said she was going to give the award to Amini’s family in Iran. Throughout her career, Ebadi has defended intellectual dissidents tortured for criticizing the system of the Islamic Republic. In her speech, she was talking about the great number of educated Iranian youth who have no future in their country and, as a result, are taking to the streets to protest. Ebadi is now calling for a UN-supervised referendum, which would allow a peaceful transition from the Islamic Republic to a “secular parliamentary democracy”.

While Ebadi is optimistic about Iran’s future, the democratization of the country will be a long path. Maryam Rajavi is one of the most influential figures of the opposition with 40 years of activity in Iran and in exile. She is the president-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, founded in Tehran in 1981 and based in France. Her international grassroots movement called Iran Freedom Network is supported by American and other Western politicians. The book of Iranian-American scholar Kian Tajbakhsh, entitled Creating Local Democracy In Iran: State-Building and the Politics of Decentralization, was published this year at the Cambridge University Press. A former political prisoner held in the Evin prison, which he calls Iran’s Bastille, Tajbakhsh was arrested in Tehran in 2007 because of his work supporting democratic groups in Iran for George Soros’s Open Society Institute, and later in 2009 because of his participation in the Green Movement protests.

A decisive step towards Iran’s future democratic generation was taken in 2012 by establishing the Iran Academia, based in The Netherlands. Run by mainly Iranian scholars, the first Persian online university for Social Sciences and Humanities offers learning opportunities, which are free of charge. The university’s mission is “to encourage critical thinking and build capacity for Iran’s youth by increasing access to uncensored knowledge” through various platforms.

Veronika Durin-Hornyik PhD

Photograph: “Free Iran” air protest over Sydney on 29 October 2022

Publications in progress

I am pleased to announce that my proposal for an international conference entitled “L’anticommunisme en France et en Europe (1917-1991)” (Anticommunism in France and Europe, 1917-1991), which will be held in Paris in January 2023, has been accepted. My paper will address both the activities sponsored by the American anticommunist organization Free Europe Committee (FEC) in France and the French counterpart of the FEC called “Comité français pour l’Europe libre”. The latter was a single undertaking since there was no foreign counterpart outside the French committee. In my paper written in French, I will discuss the availability of archival records and present Free Europe-sponsored activities in France at the beginning of the Cold War and through the 1950s. During my speech at the conference, I will display audio-visual archives that I recorded with people involved in the French committee.

Meanwhile, I am writing other papers in English related to my PhD research. One of the articles I co-write with a fellow researcher will be devoted to Royall Tyler (1884-1953), a distinguished American historian, diplomat, economist, and art connoisseur. Tyler spent his entire lifetime in Europe and his career embodies in many aspects US foreign policy towards Europe. Our article will highlight the Unofficial American Commitment in European affairs during the first half of the 20th century. Furthermore, I am also working on an article about my PhD research, the Free Europe University in Exile. This article will present the FEUE and will focus on the Communist attacks against the institution during its existence.

Veronika Durin-Hornyik PhD

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