International Youth Human Rights Movement (YHRM) was founded in 1998 at the initiative of several persons, who by that time had been working in other human rights NGOs. In this environment, there were many older dissidents and very few young people. It became clear that the Movement would face challenges in its further development, if no special efforts were made.
Andrey Yurov was one of the Movement’s founders. Back then, he lived in Voronezh. The decision to establish YHRM in a relatively small town was critical and had a simple explanation: it is hard to keep so many people together over a long period of time in such a big and expensive city as Moscow.
In spring of 2010, at the invitation of Artem Marchenkov, we organized an antifascist film festival “Hitler – Kaput?” in Vladimir. I was part of the festival team. There I met some human rights defenders, who told me about YHRM. To some extent, this predetermined the field of my work for ten years ahead.
During the festival we got to know some international students and later launched a campaign against their unlawful expulsion from the university. We also organized a nationwide program for the protection of international students’ rights. We became interested in the topic related to the crimes of Nazism and their correlation with the present-day neo-racist manifestations. As a result of this engagement, we created an annual educational week “Crystal Night – Never Again!” and published the first newspaper on the topic (since online versions were not in very high demand back then). A few years after, we started publishing an antifascist periodical called “Open City”.
YHRM’s activities include education, support for the victims of racism, wars and totalitarian regimes. With regard to the abovementioned work areas, we always try to offer such a format that would be suitable even for inexperienced young activists and ordinary unindifferent people wanting to participate and support us.
Police stations are organized differently. If there is a checkpoint at the station, an officer would usually just check the ID and let a visitor in. If police officers are informed about the visit in advance, hardly any problems arise. If the visitor has no special authorization, then he or she can access only that part of the station, which is open to general public.
The most important thing for the public is to be able to understand the service. One of the purposes of the police reform was to turn stations into service centers, so that people would go there as they go shopping: a person should come to the station, file an application, and receive adequate service in response, and that is it. This is why the reform introduced a number of administrative procedures. Generally, we also check what kind of information about detainees’ rights is available and how it is presented.
There is a possibility that, if the police became more open and transparent, the chances of arbitrariness would reduce. This theory has not yet been tested in Russia. At same time, some of our existing practices, like public monitoring commissions that may consist of anyone who feels like it, are unique. In the US, all the current police supervision is carried out by government bodies. People get salary for doing this. Our methods would be in high demand there, taking into consideration the amount of homicides of African Americans committed by the police.
I like transferring knowledge to other people and meeting persons who are willing to learn something new. I like to witness the awakening of fully-fledged citizens in them. It often happens that people who immerse themselves in this field can no longer imagine having any other lifestyle.
Having found myself it this community, I immediately started to dream about organizing a distance-learning program on the basics of law in order to attract as many people as possible into the human rights movement. My own involvement in the International School of Human Rights and Civic Activity began with watching a distance-learning course “Video-School of Human Rights.” I admired its content and the people who made it. As time passed, I became a supervisor of one of the groups.
If everyone completed at least the basic course, it would help us greatly to communicate in critical situations, and, I suppose, the society as a whole would change drastically.