Hunger Strike Launched at Birzeit University

Protests continued today at Birzeit University demanding the total release of all students imprisoned by the Palestinian Authority. A hunger strike was launched today involving more than 140 students including 20 international students studying at Birzeit University. Some staff at the university are also participating in the hunger strike and have encouraged others to join them. One student leader told Birzeit News, " Our aim with this hunger strike is to bring the attention of the international community to the fate of our imprisoned comrades."

The sit in was visited by several further delegations today who expressed support for the students and insisted that their requests are reasonable. Students were greatly encouraged by the reaction on the local and international level.

Several delegations from other Palestinian universities visited Birzeit University. One representative said, "We insist that all universities in Palestine join students in their battle against the desecration of the universities and the interference of the security bodies."

A student from Al Quds University delivered a speech insisting that the student movement in all Palestinian universities was unified and that the students of Al-Quds University supported the release of Birzeit students from the Palestinian prisons. The speaker also criticized the entry of the security forces onto Birzeit University campus.

Delegations from Al-Najah University, Al-Quds Open University and Al-Tireh Girls College visited Birzeit and also expressed solidarity with the protesting students. The three delegations insisted on the freedom and sanctity of the university campuses and asked for the prohibition of the security forces from universities. They asked also for an immediate release of the arrested students.

A representative of the families of Jerusalem prisoners in Israeli jails visited the sit in and she assured the students that all Palestinians support them in their just requests.

Zakareyyeh an-Nahhas visited the sit in as a representative of the Palestinian NGO Network and reiterated the demands of the students. Ziad Abu Amr also spoke as a representative of the Political Committee in the Legislative Council and assured support to the students in order to achieve their aims. Abu Amr declared, "I don't support throwing stones on Jospin but I ask for the guarantee of the freedom of opinion for all Palestinians." Amr insisted on the right of all the students to continue their study at the university and not to be dismissed.

The students of the university held a march inside the campus along with the visiting delegations chanting, "Rajoub and Tirawi - we have the right to express our voices loudly!" [Rajoub and Tirawi are the heads of the Preventive Security and Mukhabarat respectively]. A leader of the student movement told the march that the protests would continue until all the students are released. He insisted that classes would remain suspended until the security bodies and the Palestinian Authority released all arrested students.

Students are appealing for messages of support which can be sent directly to them at birzeitstudents@mail.com. The students have also launched a website about their protests at http://www.birzeit.edu/studentcouncil