Israeli Occupation forces arrest dozens of Birzeit University students (2020-2021 academic year update)

This past month has been marked by increased Israeli aggression against Birzeit University students. In July alone, fifteen students were arrested, including one female student, Layan Nasir, who was arrested on July 7, 2021, in addition to 14 others who were detained in the mass arrest that took place near Turmus Aya on July 14, 2021. 

On that day, the Israeli Occupation forces stopped a vehicle that carried 33 students as they exited Turmus Aya following a solidarity visit to the family of the political prisoner Muntaser Shalabi, whose home was demolished by the Israeli military in early July. 

The students were blindfolded and led to an unknown location, then detained for several hours. According to Birzeit University’s lawyer, the occupying forces are currently detaining 14 students while needlessly delaying their military court hearings. 

This violence is neither new nor unprecedented. While Birzeit University’s community has been consistently targeted by the Israeli occupying forces, over the course of the past several years the Israeli military has intensified its aggressive tactics against Birzeit University students. Since the beginning of the 2020-2021 academic year (September 2020–July 2021), 58 students have been arrested and subjected to brutal interrogation techniques. Currently, there are 80 students imprisoned in Israeli jails and detention centers. Earlier on May 2021, the Israeli occupying forces murdered Fadi, Washaha, a student at Birzeit University, while protesting the ongoing military occupation in Palestine. He was shot in the head. 

This amounts to a clear policy of targeting our students that severely disrupts their pursuit of education and violates their academic freedom and right to education. 

The university strongly condemns these practices, which deny students their dignity and the most basic freedoms and rights, such as the right to travel, work, and assemble. More distressingly, these practices constitute grave violations of the right to education enshrined in Article 26 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 13 of the 1966 International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights. Birzeit University reaffirms its belief in its students’ right to express their thoughts and ideas and stand with their people in their just quest for freedom and independence. 

The university thus calls for international organizations to take a stand against these severe human rights violations and to raise awareness of them worldwide, exposing these practices that target our students and academics and holding the occupation authorities accountable to ensure the sanctity of higher-education institutions and protect academic freedoms and human rights.