July 31, 2023

Forced to Work for the War Industry


Forced to Work for the War Industry
An artist's impression of Shahed 136 drones swarming an airport. Khamenei.ir, Wikipedia Commons

Students of the Alabuga Polytechnic College in Tatarstan are being forced to assemble Iranian Shahed drones. These drones are widely used by Russia to strike Ukrainian cities and energy infrastructure.

According to journalists, several hundred college students, most between the ages of 15 to 17, are allegedly involved in the assembly of these drones using Iranian components. Many of these students are reportedly subjected to long working hours, including weekends and holidays, leaving them with very little time to focus on their studies.

Furthermore, college management has allegedly imposed restrictions on discussing the drone assembly project. They threaten students with deductions and exorbitant fines of up to two million rubles (approximately $22,000) if they speak out. The students also claim that the security service at Alabuga monitors their communication by checking their phones before they commence work.

"Everyone is afraid. I’m not allowed to say that at all. The management intimidates us very much about this," says one of the students.

These revelations concerning the Alabuga Polytech College point to a larger pattern of concerning practices. The pressure on students at Alabuga Polytechnic is very high; in April, a first-year student committed suicide. According to peers and relatives of the deceased, the student's suicide could have been driven by the fear that their family would have to reimburse the college for unfinished studies.

In addition, journalists discovered that students are compelled to participate in so-called “patriotic actions,” which include digging trenches and paintball sessions simulating battles from the Great Patriotic War. Losing teams are allegedly subjected to being shot with paintball guns. Sergey Alekseyev, a top manager of Alabuga, describes the paintball games as a means to "weed out weaklings at the beginning." 

The situation at Alabuga Polytechnic is not isolated. Since the beginning of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, students from various regions of the country have allegedly been forced into “patriotic actions” or recruited to work for military purposes. In 2022, some students were reportedly involved in manufacturing military gear, including clothing, thermal underwear, sleeping bags, and other equipment for the Russian military. During mobilization, students were coerced into distributing summonses.

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