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Alert, Right to Education Campaign, 7 November 2005
Today, four Birzeit University students face interrogation at the Israeli military base, Ofer, near Ramallah in the West Bank. Their crime? Simply going to class.
The four students were stopped on their way to University on Tuesday 1st November, by an Israeli Army ‘flying checkpoint’. Israeli Army jeeps and soldiers frequently block the road from Ramallah to Birzeit on an arbitrary basis. Traffic is brought to a total standstill and soldiers harass and prevent students and teachers trying to reach the University.
The four students were pulled out of a taxi and instructed by soldiers to wait at the side of the road. They were not given any reason why. After waiting for four hours, the students were told that they must come back for a ‘meeting’ at Ofer military base on Monday 7 November. They were warned that if they do not attend this meeting then their names will be put on a list at all military checkpoints throughout the West Bank, a threat that if carried out would effectively prevent them from moving around and make them constantly vulnerable to detention and arrest.
This ominous practice of arbitrarily summoning ordinary civilians for a ‘meeting’ with the Israeli Army is a common means of harassment and intimidation. The interrogations are highly threatening and are used by the Israeli Army as an attempt to pressure people into providing information about acquaintances and colleagues.
For nearly 3 years, a permanent Israeli military checkpoint on the road from Ramallah to Birzeit cut Birzeit University off from the majority of its students and faculty. ‘Surda Roadblock’ was eventually dismantled at the end of 2003, but the road to Birzeit is still subject to the constant threat of periodic closures by flying checkpoints.
Students are subjected to daily harassment by the Israeli Army, particularly at checkpoints on their way to and from university, or during Army raids on student homes and dormitories. There are currently 107 Birzeit University student prisoners. Amnesty International and the Right to Education Campaign recently launched international appeals for Walid Hanatche, MA student of Economics at Birzeit University, who has been detained arbitrarily without charge or trial for the last three-and-a-half years. Click here for appeal.