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: December 29, 2020

Attack Types: Killings, Violence, Disappearances

Institution(s):American University of Beirut

Region & Country:Western Asia | Lebanon

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On December 29, 2020, police clashed with student protesters at the American University of Beirut (AUB), during a demonstration over the price of tuition.

In the weeks leading up to the protest, authorities at AUB and the Lebanese American University, both private institutions, had decided to base the price of tuition on an exchange rate of 3900 Lebanese Pounds to one US Dollar, while the official exchange rate is 1500 Lebanese Pounds to the US Dollar. Student protesters argued that this change would amount to a tuition hike of 160 percent, and expressed concerns that the decision would lead to similar fee increases at public institutions.

Protesters convened outside the gates of AUB, where they were met by police, who prevented them from entering, reportedly beating them with sticks and using tear gas to disperse them. 

Scholars at Risk is concerned about police use of force in response to the nonviolent exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and assembly — conduct that is expressly protected by international human rights instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Lebanon is a party. While state authorities have a responsibility to maintain security and order, they also have an obligation to ensure that their actions are proportionate, do not harm members of the higher education community, and are not undertaken to restrict or retaliate against peaceful expressive activity. Such incidents undermine academic freedom, institutional autonomy, and democratic society generally.