If you are not familiar with Al Quds University campus allow me to draw you this picture. A number of military checkpoints and Israeli settlements placed around and near the campus, armed military vehicles that stop for soldiers to frisk students, staff and anyone else in the area. But also Israel’s despicable and uninterrupted “security fence” cutting through Abu Dis (the town AQU is located on) and suffocating the campus.
I attended Al Quds Bard College, a liberal arts partnership between Bard New York and Al Quds University for four years and this year I work there as a Post Baccalaureate Fellow. Each semester spent at Al Quds University students acquire a unique set of skills you perhaps not expect to gain on a university campus; how to help evacuate the university campus at notice, how to breathe through air that’s filled with tear gas and, most importantly, how to save yourself from a stray bullet. As a former student and a current staff member at Al Quds University I am a witness to the illegal and violent actions of the Israeli military on both AQU campus and against students. Previously, in one of the military raids on the campus students were suppressed with stun grenades and rubber bullets. On October 13th this year two Israeli military jeeps and at least eight soldiers blocked the northern entrance of the campus and arrested eight students, seven men and one woman. These raids constantly jeopardize the safety of the students and staff and they irreversibly damage the education and intellectual prowess of AQU, creating an atmosphere of violence, harassment and fear. The normal conscious human being would believe these raids are an unbearable invasion of the right of education. However, these acts by the Israeli military are not condemned nor denounced by the international community. These actions must be met by international measures to halt future raids and ensure the safety and welfare of all AQU students and staff.
The escalation of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict has not stopped students or staff from doing their jobs to the fullest. As a staff member I can ensure you that the university has tried its best to create a fear-free atmosphere, emphasizing the importance of education as a means of resistance. As in, “access to education at all levels is an undebatable legal right that is reflected in the international law 26th article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights”. Al Quds University has a wide variety of students from all over the West Bank who are exposed to illegal raids, discriminatory apartheid policies and severe limitations on their rights of movement. The existence of the so-called “security fence”, heavy ammunition and militarized checkpoints does not stop students from risking their safety to acquire their Bachelors or Master’s degree at Al Quds. Classes are often disrupted, tear gas and rubber bullets are evident everywhere, but education remains a resisting mechanism in the fight against oppression and towards freedom.
Yara Al Afandi is a Biology/Media graduate of Al Quds Bard Honors College. Born and bred in Dheisheh Refugee Camp south of Bethlehem, in the Occupied West Bank, she currently works as a Post Baccalaureate Fellow and also in different mentoring and empowerment projects for youth and women in her refugee camp. Yara is a Pro football fan – long live the football nation!