Georgetown University said it invited Darja to highlight the plight of political prisoners around the world. Alexei Navalny is a vocal critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin and corruption in Russia and has been imprisoned in Russia since 2021 on fraud charges in a trial that his supporters have described as politically motivated. His daughter Darja together with his wife acted as his representatives at that time.
The students point out that he has referred to immigrants as “cockroaches”, hurled slurs at homosexuals and just recently said Crimea should be returned to Ukraine. Amnesty International even removed him from the label of prisoner of conscience due to his statements.
With the ongoing war in Ukraine and the recent imprisonment of The Wall Street Journal journalist Evan Gershkovich in Russia, Navalna, a 22-year-old psychology student at Stanford University, seemed like a good choice for the school to emphasize free speech while distancing itself from the Kremlin’s behavior. However, a number of Ukrainian and Georgian students had a different opinion on the matter.
Final year Ukrainian student Iryna Tiasková said that she would like to work in the Ukrainian parliament one day, and being portrayed with a Russian political figure, whether pro-war or not, could harm her in the future. “Last year’s graduates shook hands with Blinken, who was giving a speech. Should I shake her hand? I won’t do that even if I had to,” said Tiasková.
When Ukrainian student Ruslana Kochmarova learned that Navalna would be among the speakers, she thought “this is a bad joke.” She then began to organize a student protest.
Students addressed a series of indignant letters to the school administration, and hundreds of students, faculty and alumni signed a petition against Navalna’s invitation to the campus.
The university will not cancel the invitation
The university responded by trying to distract from multiple speakers. She also invited Debra Tice, the mother of jailed journalist Austin Tice, and Zimbabwean pastor and anti-corruption, injustice and poverty activist Evan Mawarire to speak. However, the management is not considering removing Navalna from the program.
“Once sent out, we no longer withdraw invitations or discourage speakers from speaking here,” said Joel Hellman, dean of the Faculty of International Affairs. “When concerns arise among students, we communicate with the speakers so that they can take them into account in their speeches,” the dean added.
The students now plan to show their disapproval even at the moment when Navalná appears on stage at the graduation; many graduates intend to stand with their backs to the stage with Ukrainian flags in their hands as a sign of peaceful protest.
Navalny is no longer a prisoner of conscience. Because of the old clip about migrants
Amnesty International has changed its mind again. Navalny is again a prisoner of conscience for her
From the discussions on social networks, it is clear that not all students object to Navlaná’s speech, some, on the contrary, look forward to it. However, the end of the spring semester at Georgetown is a time when everyone is focused on final exams and end-of-year celebrations. This year, as another Ukrainian student said, “it was chaos and disorder.”
Georgetown University’s Faculty of International Relations is full of students who are likely to become influential figures on the international scene in the years to come, and for the occasion of the graduation, important figures travel to the school to speak. In previous years, for example, Foreign Minister Antony Blinken, UN Secretary-General António Guterres and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright took turns on the stage.
Navalny is facing a military court on a new charge of terrorism
In the cell, they are torturing me again, not only with the flu, Navalny described
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