SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities. Learn more.

Date of Incident: September 07, 2019

Attack Types: Imprisonment | Prosecution

Institution(s):Birzeit University

Region & Country:Western Asia | Palestine (OPT)

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On September 7, 2019, Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) detained and raided the home of recent Birzeit University graduate Samah Jaradat, in apparent connection with her student activism.

On August 28, 2019, IDF soldiers detained Mays Abu Ghosh, a friend of Jaradat’s at Birzeit University, in apparent connection to her student activism (see report). A few days later, on September 4, Jaradat graduated from Birzeit University with a degree in sociology.

According to Jaradat’s father, on September 7 — just over a week after Mays Abu Ghosh was detained — IDF soldiers conducted a 3:00 am raid on their home, entering Jaradat’s bedroom, where they began interrogating her. After Jaradat reportedly refused to open her phone for the soldiers, they blindfolded and handcuffed her and brought her to the Moskobiyeh detention center.

At the detention center, Jaradat was reportedly strip searched and put in solitary confinement for five hours before interrogations began. Jaradat was reportedly subject to lengthy interrogations, unsanitary conditions, and sleep deprivation. Jaradat was also denied access to her lawyer for a period of weeks. After being subject to twenty-two days of interrogations at the interrogation center, authorities transferred Jaradat to Al Damoun prison.

On March 30, 2020, Jaradat was reportedly sentenced to nine months in prison (including time served since her detention) and fined 3,000 Israeli Shekels ($880.79) for her alleged participation in a student union at Birzeit University.

On June 4, 2020, after serving her nine month sentence, Jaradat was released from Israeli custody.

Since the summer of 2019, there has been an apparent increase in detentions of university students in the West Bank. Sources at Birzeit have reported that more than eighty students were in Israeli custody.

Scholars at Risk is concerned by the detention and prosecution of a student in apparent retaliation for her exercise of the right to freedom of expression and freedom of association — conduct that is expressly protected under international human rights instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Israel is a party. SAR is also concerned by reports about the student’s treatment while in custody, and related due process violations while in state custody. State authorities have a responsibility to refrain from restricting or retaliating against students in connection with nonviolent expression and associations. In addition to the harm to the immediate victim, such incidents undermine academic freedom and democratic society generally.