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Right to Education Campaign, Birzeit University, 29 November 2004
Four Birzeit University students from Gaza were arrested by Israeli Army soldiers at their student apartment in Birzeit, near Ramallah, and arbitrarily ‘deported’ back to the Gaza Strip last Sunday 21 November. The four students – Walid Muhanna, Bashar Abu Salim, Mohammad Matar and Bashar Abu Shahala – are all students of Civil and Mechanical Engineering at Birzeit University and are all due to graduate by the end of this academic year.
Israeli soldiers forcibly entered the students’ apartment building in Birzeit at 2a.m. last Thursday night and arrested the four students. They were handcuffed, blindfolded and taken to a series of nearby military detention centers where they were held for 3 days. No charges were made against the students and no written deportation orders were issued. The four were simply taken by soldiers and left at the Erez military border crossing into the Gaza Strip.
Due to Israeli imposed restrictions on movement these students have not been able to go home to see their families during their course of studies over the last four years and, traumatically, Bashar Abu Salim was not even able to go home when his father died. They are among the last Gaza students still studying in the West Bank. In 2000, there were over 300 Gaza students studying at Birzeit University, in 2004 there are only 39. Since October 2000, the Israeli Authorities have made it virtually impossible for Palestinians to gain or renew the permits required by Israel, the occupying power, to move between the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Gaza students enrolled in universities in the West Bank have been forced to either overstay their original permits, facing all the ramifications that this entails, or to drop out of university entirely.
There is grave concern that the deportations of the four Birzeit University students last week may mark the beginning of an enforced return of all Gaza students currently studying in the West Bank, and that we may soon witness a wider military campaign to systematically round up and ‘deport’ all Gaza students back to Gaza and what has effectively become a large prison, confining over 1 million people.
Since April this year, 1500 university students in the Gaza Strip have been prevented from traveling through the Rafah Terminal on the Palestinian-Egyptian border, to attend their universities in Arab and foreign countries abroad. This is due to the Israeli travel ban on all Palestinians in the Gaza Strip aged between 18 and 35. Students from the West Bank are also prevented from reaching their universities due to frequent closure of cities, hundreds of military roadblocks and the construction of the illegal Apartheid Wall inside the West Bank.
The arbitrary ‘deportation’ of the four Birzeit University students to Gaza and the Israeli restrictions on movement of all Palestinian students in the occupied West Bank and Gaza are in clear violation of the fundamental human right to education, the right to freedom of movement and the right to choose one’s place of residence within a single territory, in accordance with internationally accepted standards of human rights law.
Birzeit University calls on all human rights organizations in the region and all concerned individuals, organizations and institutions around the world to demand that the Israeli Army Legal Advisor for the West Bank immediately issues permits for the four deported students to return to Birzeit University to complete their studies, as well as demanding that all Palestinian students should be free to pursue their higher education in accordance with international human rights law.
Please write to:
Major Yaer Lutstein
Bet El Civil Administration
Fax number: +972 2 997 7326
Mr Shaol Mofaz
Israeli Minister of Defense
Fax number: +972 3 697 6990
Please also copy your letters to the Right to Education Campaign at Birzeit University.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Fax: +972 2 298 2059