Its funny how the whole world has erupted to the recent conflict in Gaza, even though it was going on for the last 20 years. There are protests still taking place everywhere, most of them demanding a firm stand on the issue from their government.
Students are also proving themselves that they play a very important role on this issue. The keffiyeh (black and white scarf famously worn by late Yasser Arafat), has become a must-have fashion accessory for both anti-war activists and bohemian hipsters. Even in Saudi Arabia, people were commonly seen wearing it and they were even sold by vendors in traffic lights. If there is anyone that has made enough profit from this war, might be the people manufacturing these scarves. Almost 2 out of 5 people I see, wear the scarf (yes, that includes me too :-)).
Students in University of Nottingham have occupied a lecture theatre, B62 (Dept. of Law), in a move to demand urgent action from their institution for Gaza. Their occupation was held after getting the consent from many of the lecturers who held lectures in that hall, and they had agreed to continue their lectures inspite of the occupation. Their demands included:
1. STATEMENT – That the University issue an official statement to the press condemning the recent and continuing atrocities perpetrated by Israel in the Gaza Strip, acknowledging particularly the effect on educational institutions, such as the bombing of the Gaza Islamic University.
2. SCHOLARSHIPS – That the University grant a minimum of ten fully-funded scholarships to Palestinian students from Gaza University -which was bombed by the Israeli military.
3. ACADEMIC AID – That the University provide academic aid to universities and schools in the Gaza strip.
4. REMOVE STARBUCKS – That the University terminate the vending of Starbucks coffee in Hallward Library and replace it with a fairtrade alternative.
5. THE RIGHT TO PROTEST – That there be no legal, financial, or academic repercussions taken against anyone involved in or supporting this protest. Those involved in this occupation must be guaranteed respect of their fundamental rights, including freedom of assembly, expression, and movement in and out of the occupied space.
This peaceful protest didnt take the authorities much longer to react. Their first reaction included cutting of electricity and gas to the whole building. Remember, its peak winter here, which means its very difficult to stay in a place without heating. This was followed by the police being involved and protesters being forcefully evicted. A few of them were reported to be injured during the eviction. Media was denied access to the university so that it doesnt make its way into the news.
BBC was faced with similiar pressure from people across the UK a few weeks back, when they decided not to broadcast the DEC(Disasters Emergency Committee) appeal for Gaza victims on air because they thought that it broke the impartial views of the BBC on world events. All this was inspite of other channels(ITV, SKY etc.) agreeing to appeal for it.
Students in Universities across the UK have started following their peers in Nottingham and have started their own occupation. The most recent one to join it is University of Manchester.
‘University of Liverpool – Friends of Palestine’ are meeting up later today evening with the students union to hold a similiar one in my university.
At the end of all this fiasco, all I hope is that it remains peaceful and that no one forgets what their real aim is.