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Zajel, An-Najah University, Nablus, 26 April 2006
An-Najah National University, the biggest university in the West Bank and one of the leading academic institutions in Palestine has been suffering through the last few years from constant Israeli aggressions and violations to the right of education; students and staff of An-Najah not only find it difficult to move from and to the university campuses but also inside them as well.
The University has currently over thirteen thousand students mainly divided into two campuses; the new campus in the western entrance of the city currently includes the scientific faculties and the old campus which is considered the main headquarter of the university includes most of the humanities faculties, the different administrative departments and some other main facilities; during the last few years both campuses are destinations for Israeli tanks and armored vehicles.
In the years 2002 and 2003, students were banned several times from going to their university as a result of Israeli incursions and curfews of Nablus city which normally lasted for weeks. But they were able to break these attempts to ruin normal Palestinian life and challenged Israeli procedures trying to continue the building process, that wasn’t easy though, Israeli vehicles and tanks continued to deliberately pass in front of both university campuses making its staff and students constantly feeling threatened and unsafe.
|Campus of An-Najah University, Nablus, where over 14,000 students try to attend classes on a daily basis.|
Mira Nabulsi, An-Najah graduate says: “I remember in 2002 and 2003 when we had to make several final exams while Israeli vehicles were standing in front of the university gates. One day they detained a colleague while heading to the exam, we simply felt violated, its like we were observed all time…who gave them the right to simply show up, interfere in our lives and ruin our days!”.
In Arabic we call the university campus Hharam. This word is usually used to describe places having a sense of privacy and holiness. But unfortunately this is precisely what An-Najah campuses lack! what is supposed to be a sanctuary simply became another target of the Israeli occupation forces; previously and on several occasions, students were forced to interrupt their classes and evacuate the university due to the Israeli presence in the city or in front of An-Najah campuses. During the last couple of weeks, the persistent Israeli raids on Nablus city became intensive and university campuses became again a destination where soldiers like to patrol to provoke young men and women on their way to their classes. Soldiers have been shooting randomly and hassling students, and students sometimes responded by throwing stones throwing stones at them. As a result, university administration decided to close the yards overlooking the main streets whenever Israeli vehicles were storming university area, neighboring areas or even passing by…
Nahid Muhamad, student at the French department says: “there is a shortage in places where people can go for recreation, the campus became the only opportunity for us to sit, study or enjoy our time, but, because of the Israeli incursions, we are banned from enjoying it, even the campus became like a prison.”
This feeling of unrest has tremendously affected the normal ongoing academic process, students not only lose concentration when such incidents occur but also are forced to stay in a limited space in the university backyards, which causes sometimes chaos and annoyance to student who wish to have a quiet studying climate like their peers all over the world.
Majdi Anwar, Student at the Faculty of Economics, comments on this saying: “Not only next my flat the Israelis are around, but also on the way to my village Yabad near Jenin, I did not expect that the Israeli soldiers will also be next an academic institution, this makes me feel frustrated, it affects our educational process”.
The problem remains that a normal academic process is truly hard to achieve under such conditions, students who mostly leave their dorms once a week to visit their families find it difficult because of checkpoints and other occupation features to come to university on weekends for make-up classes, to use the library for research or studying not to mention extracurricular activities which most of them were stopped for more than five years.
Worood Ahmad, student from the French Department says: “nature and calmness always indicates freedom and openness, but we don’t find this in this small space we have at the campus, we do study at the campus so we have the right to breath!”
Mr. Saed Abu Hijleh, Director of Public Relations Department and instructor at An-Najah, says: ” The continued Israeli harassment of our student population and faculty in the form of continued patrolling of the streets in the perimeter of the university campus is adding another element of violation of Palestinian right to education. Certain areas on campus that are facing and overlooking the surrounding streets are now becoming restricted areas of movement producing a sense of cluster-phobia among our students and faculty. Campuses around the world are considered safe dwellings and sanctuaries for university students but in the case of Palestine our campus, due to Israeli oppressive measures, are becoming small prisons. This is an ever-evolving apartheid that must end; our campuses must return to their normal status of safety and freedom of access. We hope that the world sees what is happening in Palestine and speaks out against Israeli violations”.
Due to the mobility problems Palestinian students face a lot of troubles in moving between different Palestinian universities for research purposes, they hardly have the chance to join exchange programs, training courses or graduate studies abroad. If that’s awkward, how ridiculous would it sound that even within their own campuses students don’t feel freedom? Such aggressions should be firmly condemned. We ask all academic and human rights institutions all over the world to interfere and put pressure on the Israeli Government to stop its aggressions on the Palestinian right to education.
For more information about the plight of students at An-Najah University, please visit the Right to Education page of the University’s Zajel website.