In its article “Professor returns honorary doctorate degree to Putin after MH17” (“Professor zendt eredoctoraat na MH17 retour aan Poetin”), influential Dutch paper AD reports that a Dutch aeronautic engineering professor, Egbert Torenbeek, has returned his honorary doctorate degree to Moscow and has called on other scientists to do the same.
The Delft University professor contemplated this move for a week, so it was well-considered decision. Torenbeek handed back the honorary doctorate degree he’d received 15 years ago from the Moscow Aviation Institute (MAI) as a response to the Russian act of terror against MH17, as well as in protest against the Kremlin kingpin’s unrestricted aggression.
“Rejecting my honorary degree is the only way to make your president understand that he bears responsibility for the unguided rocket strike,” the professors stated in his letter to Herashenko, MAI’s provost. He added:
“This is my gesture in response to the murder of a student from our university. Although I didn’t know him personally, by this rejection I am also sending a signal to my Russian friends. The question is whether they are happy with shooting down the plane or anything at all. They are doing their work for meager wages. And I regret they have to face this. However, in this situation, they could still make a reasonable decision like I have done. I have no illusions that I can change the world. But I believe scholars and scientists must set the right example of ethical conduct for society and, particularly, for students.”
The professor said his conscience became enflamed when Putin was made president. “Russia has seen a lot of changes in the recent years. The situation is worsening constantly,” Professor Torenbeek writes.
He points out that the Russian kingpin’s aggression reminds him of the period prior to WWI. “I’m not saying another war will occur. But the situation is comparable. There is an attempt to restore the Soviet Union’s former status. And 85% of the population supports this course of events. And this can’t be allowed just like that,” the professor writes.
Professor Torenbeek is appalled by the fact that Russia, despite the UN resolution calling for unbiased investigation of the disaster, refuses to acknowledge its responsibility for the terrorist act against the Boeing.
The professor condemned Russia’ behavior in the conflicts against Ukraine and Chechnya (“in conflicten met Oekraïne en Tsjetsjenië”) and the unrestricted supply of weapons to Iraq and Syria, fueling conflict.
“This makes me pessimistic in regards to Russia’s future as a civilized country,” the professor wrote in his letter to MAI’s provost, sent a week after the disaster.
The professor finds full support for his decision among his colleagues and friend. “I’m receiving emails from people writing that they fully agree with me and approve my initiative.”
Torenbeek announced that, due to the MH17 disaster, several of his colleagues from Delft University and other universities have also refused to participate in an International Aeronautics Council conference planned in St. Petersburg, Russia.
The distinctly Russian bureaucratic reaction of MAI’s provost Herashenko surprised the professor: “An official just answered me via email that the provost was on vacation,” Torenbeek said.[hr] Source: szona.org
Translated by Kirill Mikhailov, edited by Elizabeth Martin