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: July 09, 2020

Attack Types: Imprisonment

Institution(s):Birzeit University

Region & Country:Western Asia | Palestine (OPT)

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On July 9, 2020, Israeli Defense Forces reportedly detained Ruba Assi, a student at Birzeit University, during an overnight raid on her home in Ramallah.

Few details are available regarding Assi’s detention. Authorities report Israeli authorities conducted a number of raids in Ramallah and nearby Beitunia, detaining as many as eighteen individuals.

Since the summer of 2019, there has been an apparent uptick 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, which serve as venues for young Palestinians to voice concerns and opinions regarding a range of topics, including politics.

Sources do not indicate the Israeli authorities’ basis for Assi’s detention, nor do sources indicate whether Israeli authorities have disclosed her whereabouts.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the apparently arbitrary detention of a student by state military authorities. Arbitrary arrests and imprisonments without particularized and reasonable suspicion may violate recognized human rights standards and international humanitarian law. 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 Assi, along with Palestinian student activists Shatha Hasan (see report) and Layan Kayed (see report), was sentenced to serve between 14-21 months in prison by an Israeli military court.