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Sanctuary from War and Political Persecution

The University of Freiburg welcomes its first fellowship recipient taking part in a program for scholars who are at risk

Freiburg, Apr 12, 2017

Sanctuary from War and Political Persecution

Photo: Baschi Bender

The University of Freiburg has joined the "Scholars at Risk" network. The organization aims each year to make possible guest fellowships abroad for researchers who are threatened with war and political persecution in their homelands. More than 400 universities from around 40 countries belong to the network. "In many countries around the world, scholars are under particular threat of political oppression because of their critical mentality," says Dr. Hans-Jochen Schiewer, rector of the University of Freiburg. "As the University of Freiburg becomes a member of 'Scholars at Risk,' the institution is taking up its responsibility for colleagues who are threatened. It is sending an indisputable message that the freedom of research and teaching are non-negotiable," he continues. The first visiting fellow from the program has already arrived. The Arnold Bergstraesser Institute for Socio-Cultural Research (ABI) has successfully applied for a fellowship stipend for a researcher from Burundi. The grant came from the Philipp Schwartz Initiative, which was started by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation together with Foreign Ministry of the Federal Republic of Germany.

The lawyer is to spend the next two years at the ABI. Among his research topics are the International Criminal Court and the judiciary in Burundi. "The ABI has for decades been researching societies divided by ethnicity and religion, including Burundi," says Dr. Andreas Mehler, the director of the ABI and Professor of Developmental Theory and Development Policy at the University of Freiburg. "Following the conclusion of a peace, there were major institutional reforms in this partner country of the state of Baden-Württemberg. Unfortunately, these reforms did not lead to more democracy and lasting peace," explains Mehler. He adds that in Burundi, the incumbent president was voted into office for the third term in 2015, even though the constitution limits presidencies to two terms. The German Foreign Ministry says that the security situation in the East African country is unclear and tense. In the Burundian capital, Bujumbura, where the researcher works at the Université du Burundi, says Mehler, violent, politically-motivated clashes could take place at any time. The example of this guest fellow typifies the situation of scholars in a country in the throes of a severe political crisis and where it is no longer possible to freely express opinions.

Press Conference on Wednesday, 19 April at 12 p.m. in the Administrative Building (Rektoratsgebäude), 6th Floor, Room Nr. 06003
Media representatives will have the opportunity to attend a press conference with the university rector, Dr. Hans-Jochen Schiewer, ABI Director Andreas Mehler and the scholar from Burundi. In addition to being able to meet the fellowship recipient from Burundi, participants will also receive more information about the University of Freiburg’s membership in the network "Scholars at Risk." The researcher from Burundi speaks English and French and an interpreter will be provided. The University of Freiburg asks for your understanding that the scholar must remain anonymous in order to ensure his own safety and that of his family, which is still in Burundi. Registration is required to attend the press conference. Please send an email to by 18 April 2017.

Information on the Philipp Schwartz Initiative
The Philipp Schwartz Initiative was established by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation together with the Foreign Ministry of the Federal Republic of Germany. It enables universities, colleges and other research institutions in Germany to provide guest fellowships for scholars from abroad who are at risk. This initiative is financed by the Foreign Ministry, the Alfried Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach Foundation, the Fritz Thyssen Foundation, the Gerda Henkel Foundation, the Klaus Tschira Foundation, the Robert Bosch Foundation and the Stiftung Mercator.

Website of the "Scholars at Risk" network

Additional reading – "Special Focus: Burundi After the 2015 Election" in the scholarly journal Africa Spectrum (published in cooperation with the ABI)

Prof. Dr. Andreas Mehler
Department of Political Science
University of Freiburg
Tel.: 0761/88878-14

Katharina Aly
International Office
University of Freiburg
Tel.: 0761/203-4376