PCHR Condemns and Urges Public Prosecution to Open Investigation into Police Raid into al-Azhar University Campus in Gaza, Banning Kufiyah and Assaulting Students
Date: 21 September 2021
Time: 13:30 GMT
Today, 21 September 2021, the Palestinian police stormed al-Azhar University campus in Gaza and ordered students to take off their Palestinian kufiyah, claiming there were orders to ban wearing kufiyahs. The police detained and beat up all those who refused to obey the orders, subjecting them to degrading treatment.
The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) condemns the police’s raid into al-Azhar University campus and assault on students, stressing that wearing kufiyahs is a personal freedom that should be respected in all circumstances. Thus, PCHR calls upon the Attorney General in Gaza to open an investigation into this incident and bring those involved to justice.
A 21-year-old student said to PCHR’s fieldworker, “Today, at approximately 08:30, when I was about to enter the eastern campus via the university’s northern gate, the Police Director at the university ordered me to take off the kufiyah upon police orders to ban it. I refused, so he took me to the police booth near the university gate, where police officers started punching and beating me with sticks after taking my kufiyah. They ordered me to sign a pledge not to wear the kufiyah again, but I refused and managed to reach the campus. They kept beating me until students gathered and I managed to get away.”
Another 21-year-old student said, “At approximately 09:00 I was standing on the Engineering Department’s staircase, police officers approached and asked me to take off my Palestinian kufiyah, but I refused. They took me to the security booth and started beating and insulting me. They pulled my kufiyah and confiscated my cell phone before ordering me to wait at the booth door and not to move. Half an hour later, they returned my cell phone and kufiyah, ordering me not to wear it again.”
Al-Azhar University published a statement, saying that “al-Azhar University in Gaza denounces the police’s assault on the students and university security officers on Tuesday, 21 September The University regrets such conduct in the university campus, which is a sacred site…”The university also urged in its statement, “the competent authorities to take immediate action in order to protect the university, its students and employees and to ban any interference into the university campus from non-competent authorities.”
Later, the police issued a press statement saying, “The Police has followed with the Office of the President of al-Azhar University regarding the events that took place at its campus earlier today, involving a student body, university security, and university police. The police denounces the University’s press release, which included false accusations against police officer. The press statement bended the truth; meanwhile, the police and university are in constant communication to address the issue. The police asserts that it is its top priority to maintain calm and order at all university campuses.”
PCHR asserts that assaults on personal freedoms and torture are two crimes that are not subject to a statute of limitations as per the Palestinian Basic Law, Article 32 “Any violation of any personal freedom, of the sanctity of the private life of human beings, or of any of the rights or liberties that have been guaranteed by law or by this Basic Law shall be considered a crime. Criminal and civil cases resulting from such violations may not be subject to any statute of limitations. The National Authority shall guarantee a fair remedy to those who suffer from such damage;” also Article 13.1 stipulates that “No person shall be subject to any duress or torture.”
This conduct by the authorities violates Palestine’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 9.1 “Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention. No one shall be deprived of his liberty except on such grounds and in accordance with such procedure as are established by law.” Additionally, Article 7 of the same covenant stipulates that “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”
PCHR emphasizes that the police has no right to invade a university campus except if requested by its administration; otherwise it is considered a dangerous breach of university life, the right to education, and the sanctity of university campuses.
Hence, PCHR expresses its absolute rejection of the police officer’s conduct and ban on wearing the Kufiyah at al-Azhar University, and demands the Attorney General open an investigation immediately, and to hold those responsible accountable.
Lastly, PCHR demands the Palestinian police in Gaza to respect rights and freedoms, and the Palestinian Basic Law; PCHR calls for preserving the rule of law and refraining from raiding any university’s campus.