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 24, 2023

Attack Types: Imprisonment | Other

Institution(s):Birzeit University

Region & Country:Western Asia | Palestine (OPT)

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On September 24, 2023, dozens of Israeli special forces raided Birzeit University’s campus and arrested 8 students. The raid caused damage to campus property.

The raid occurred during the early morning hours. According to a university statement, a convoy of special Israeli military personnel forcibly entered the university, assaulted and restrained university guards, and vandalized the student council office. In the student council office, they arrested eight students. Those arrested included Abdul Majid Hassan (also written as Abdul Majeed Hassan), the student council president for the 2023-2024 term who has previously been arrested and detained multiple times (see report and report), along with Amro Khalil, Abdullah Mohammad, Ahmed Awaidat, Yahya Farah, Mahmoud Nakhleh, Hassan Alwan, and Abdullah Abu Qiyas. In addition to Hassan, several of the other students were senior members of the student council. The student council is currently dominated by the Hamas-affiliated Islamic Wafa bloc. The students had been staying in the student council’s office because of concerns that they would be arrested by Palestinian security forces.

The detentions appear to fit a years-long pattern of Israeli forces targeting members of Palestinian student organizations and student councils. The Right to Education group on campus and a university statement said around 80 students from Birzeit alone are currently being held by Israeli authorities.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the forced entry into a higher education institution by military forces, the assault of university guards, and the arrest and detention of students, apparently for their political affiliation and exercise of their right to freedom of expression and association – conduct which 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 both Israel and Palestine are parties. State authorities have an obligation to refrain from taking action to restrict or punish expressive and political activity, so long as it is peaceful and responsible. In addition to harm to the immediate victims, the intimidation, detention, and assault of students undermine academic freedom and democratic society generally.