On December 2, 2020, a group of individuals reportedly attacked students at Saint Joseph University (USJ) in apparent connection to a conflict arising from student elections.
Students representing ruling political parties, including the Lebanese Forces and Hezbollah have historically dominated university student councils. Starting in October 2020, a growing number of independent student candidates not affiliated with the ruling parties have won elections at various universities, including the Lebanese American University, Rafik Hariri University, and American University of Beirut.
The results of USJ student council elections were going to be announced on December 3, with Independent candidates and ruling party candidates running. On December 1, students from opposing parties, including Hezbollah and Lebanese Forces, clashed violently (see report). The next day, Hezbollah members not affiliated with USJ, who were reportedly armed with knives, sticks, flares, and stones, arrived at the USJ campus. They proceeded to attack USJ students affiliated with Lebanese Forces. Security forces reportedly arrested three of the Hezbollah members.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about a violent attack on students in an apparent attempt to restrict a student election. State and university authorities should take all available steps to investigate such incidents, hold perpetrators responsible, and protect against attacks on students, scholars, and other members of the higher education community. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, violent attacks on students, particularly in retaliation for their expressive activity, undermines academic freedom and democratic society generally.