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: June 08, 2020

Attack Types: Imprisonment | Prosecution

Institution(s):Birzeit University

Region & Country:Western Asia | Israel

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On June 8, 2020, Israeli Defense Forces arrested Birzeit University student Layan Kayed for terrorist activity related to her participation in the student movement associated with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

Kayed and her mother were reportedly driving to Birzeit University to receive her diploma. Israeli Defense Forces stopped Kayed and her mother at a military checkpoint in the West Bank and searched Kayed after they asked for her ID. Israeli Defense Forces then arrested Kayed and later transferred her to HaSharon Prison. According to Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, authorities brought Kayed to Ofer Prison twice for interrogations, which centered around her student activism at Birzeit University. On June 18, authorities indicted Kayed on charges of activism in a student union, establishing an unlawful association, hosting social and cultural events, and throwing stones at Israeli Defense Forces during a protest.

Since the summer of 2019, there has been a reported increase in detentions of university students in the West Bank. Sources at Birzeit have reported that more than eighty students were in Israeli state custody. The detentions appear to fit a years-long pattern of Israeli Defense Forces targeting members of Palestinian student organizations and student councils.

On March 21, 2021, an Israeli court sentenced Kayed to 16 months in prison and fined her 6,000 Shekels ($1,801.30 USD).

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. 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.

UPDATE: On June 2, 2021, TRT World News reported that Kayed, along with Palestinian student activists Ruba Assi (see report) and Shatha Hasan (see report), was sentenced to serve between 14-21 months in prison by an Israeli military court.