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: March 19, 2024

Attack Types: Other

Institution(s):Abdelmalek Essaadi University

Region & Country:Northern Africa | Morocco

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On March 19, 2024, Abdelmalek Essaâdi University prevented the National Union of Moroccan Students (UNEM) from holding a biannual pro-Palestinian conference and suspended all activities at the university for four days.

UNEM created the conference, called the Jerusalem Forum and held every two years, to highlight the struggles of Palestinians. The 2024 conference, headlined “the Al-Aqsa Flood… the honor and glory of the nation, the title of its victory and the path of its liberation,” was scheduled to take place from March 21-24. “Al-Aqsa Flood” refers to Hamas’ attack on Israel on October 7, 2023, during which over 1,200 Israelis and foreign nationals were killed and more than 200 abducted. The Israeli military’s subsequent bombardment of the Gaza Strip has reportedly killed more than 33,000 Palestinians as of early April 2024. The violence has led to heightened tensions on campuses around the world.

On March 19, Abdelmalek Essaâdi University issued a statement announcing the ban of the conference and the suspension of all activities at the university from March 20-23. The university contended that the conference was not solely a student activity and that the reason for canceling it was to ensure “sound conditions for educational and academic achievement, and to avoid the tensions that this forum could create within the student arena.” The decision to halt activities was reportedly made by university president Boushti Moumni without consultation with the university council or board. In April 2022, Ibn Tofaïl University closed its campus for 3 days to prevent the fifth edition of the Jerusalem Forum (see report).

During the shutdown, the university installed security cordons around each department’s building to prevent students and professors from entering the facilities and stationed guards at campus entrances.

UNEM issued a statement condemning the cancellation of the conference, the campus shut down, and a cooperation agreement between Abdelmalek Essaâdi University and the University of Haifa.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about a university barring students from holding an on-campus event, apparently on political grounds, and about the closure of campus facilities and suspension of classes. University authorities should refrain from restricting or otherwise interfering in students’ expressive and academic activities so long as they are peaceful and responsible. Event cancellations and other interference in campus activities on political or ideological grounds undermine academic freedom.