Students, staff learn of 1976 student uprising during South African Youth Day

Birzeit University’s students, faculty and staff commemorated the 46th anniversary of the 1976 Soweto Uprising at the university campus. The event was observed jointly with the Representative Office of South Africa to the State of Palestine on June 15, 2022.

Hosted at the Faculty of Art, Music and Design, the commemoration ceremony comes a day before the South African Youth Day, which recognizes the role of Soweto students in the liberation of South Africa from the apartheid regime.

On June 16, 1976, more than 20,000 youth from Soweto took to the streets in protest against a directive that Afrikaans was to be the language of instruction in Black secondary schools, and fought for quality education in South Africa.

Attending the event was the Ambassador of South Africa to the State of Palestine Shaun Byneveldt, Birzeit University President Beshara Doumani, Assistant to the President Khaled Altakhman, Vice President for Advancement Ghassan Khatib, Director of the External Academic Relations Office Amir Khalil and academics, students and staff from Birzeit University.

The event began with a speech by Doumani, who emphasized the importance of understanding the parallels between the Palestinian and South African liberation struggles. For many Palestinians, added Doumani, the 1976 uprising in South Africa inspired young Palestinians and triggered a movement to fight against the Israeli occupation.

Byneveldt gave a comprehensive overview of the uprising and what it means to South Africans. In his address, he presented the history of the liberation struggle in South Africa that was mobilized and inspired by the events of 1976, which eventually led to their liberation the reconciliation after years of armed struggle and popular resistance.

The ambassador pointed out that the Soweto uprising provides many invaluable insights to Palestinian youth in their own struggle for liberation and affirms the power of youth to change the course of a country’s history.

During the commemoration ceremony, a documentary was screened, highlighting the student uprising and with testimonials from former prisoners, students and those who lived during the events.

Prior to the ceremony, ambassador Byneveldt met with Doumani and discussed furthering cooperation between South African universities and Birzeit University, with a focus on research and academic exchange.