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 21, 2021

Attack Types: Killings, Violence, Disappearances | Imprisonment

Institution(s):Al-Azhar University

Region & Country:Western Asia | Palestine (OPT)

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On September 21, 2021, Hamas-affiliated security forces reportedly stormed Al-Azhar University – Gaza (AUG) and attacked students, faculty, and staff who were wearing keffiyehs – a black and white scarf associated with Yasser Arafat, which, especially since his death in 2004, has become a national symbol for Palestinian struggle.

Hamas security forces stormed the AUG campus, reportedly attacking and arresting a number of students and faculty who refused demands to take their keffiyehs off. According to the AUG administration, Hamas security forces also attacked AUG security personnel, who attempted to break apart clashes between the security forces and students. The Hamas security forces denied attacking AUG students and staff on the basis of wearing a keffiyeh.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the use of force and arrests by security forces, in an apparent effort to restrict nonviolent, on-campus expression by students and faculty. Security forces must refrain from restricting or retaliating against nonviolent, expressive activity on campus. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, the use of force and arrests, especially when intended to restrict on-campus expression, undermines academic freedom, institutional autonomy, and democratic society generally.