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 18, 2023

Attack Types: Killings, Violence, Disappearances | Imprisonment

Institution(s):Birzeit University

Region & Country:Western Asia | Palestine (OPT)

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On June 18, 2023, Palestinian Authority security forces forcibly arrested Abdul Majeed Hassan, the head of the Birzeit University (BZU) Student Council, outside of his home.

A video shows several officers forcing Hassan into a car while he struggles against them. The officers reportedly beat him with batons and used pepper spray. No official reason for the arrest was given, however, sources believe that it was politically motivated and connected to Hassan’s role as a student leader. He was elected as the chairman of the student council in May 2023.

In a statement to the press, BZU called for the immediate release of Hassan and all students illegally detained on political grounds. As of writing this report, it is unclear if Hassan has been released.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the arbitrary arrest of a student in apparent retaliation for their exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of association — 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 Palestine is a party. State authorities have a responsibility to refrain from arrests and detentions that restrict or retaliate against student expression. In addition to the harm to the immediate victim, detentions that target student expression undermine academic freedom and democratic society generally.