Wednesday 8 February 2017

My Month in Abu Dis: Education Under Occupation

Access to a good education is a fundamental human right. Under the Israeli occupation though, the young adults of Al Quds University (situated adjacent to the separation wall in Abu Dis) have to live, and study, under the constant threat of abuse; quite possibly casting a dark shadow over all their potential futures. During my time at the university, many were keen to tell me their story of just how hard getting a good education in the Occupied Territories can be.

The separation wall is in full view when standing in most parts of the university. Here, it can be clearly seen from a side entrance leading to the IT department.

One such student was Dareen, a 20-year-old English language and literature student, who vividly described how the occupation effects her studies. To reach Al Quds University from her home city of Jericho, Dareen goes through an armed Israeli checkpoint where she experience's her possessions being rifled through, along with having to suffer regular intimidation from the soldiers there. Not only does this result in her being late or absent for many of her important classes, but also leaves her feeling depressed and angry at the situation she and many of her friends find themselves in. In her own words, Dareen described this practice by the IDF as ''a violation of life'' leading to a ''very hard student experience''. As well as this, I was informed by Dareen of a particularly upsetting story of how, last year, The IDF invaded her home during term time at 1am, under the pretext of a weapon's search. During that unsettling evening, she was hit about the head with a butt of a gun, all for just trying to help her distressed mother. All of this is incomprehensible for a student such as myself from the UK, and it's hard not to remain un-impartial regarding the plight of my Palestinian counterparts. When Dareen graduates, her desire is to be translator in Palestine, using her knowledge of the English language to teach and educate others about the occupation, and its subsequent effect on daily life. Thus, not only is the Israeli army periodically abusing the human rights of the students here in Al Quds University, but they also seem to be making an attempt at depriving the world of a talented and hard working individual.

Although usually suffering under the occupation, Dareen Hawi stays upbeat and works hard through the adversity.

Although alluded to by Dareen at length during our interview, it was Ibrahim, a 23-year-old political science student who gave a revealing account some other abuses faced by the student's at Al Quds. In particular, according to Ibrahim, it's a recurring event here for the IDF to regularly attack students with tear gas and shoot at them with rubber coated steel bullets. Ibrahim himself also said that it's not unusual for many of the male students, including himself, to react to this by throwing stones at the attacking soldiers, which previously led to his internment in an Israeli jail for twelve months. As a result of this  Ibrahim not only lost a year of his life, but also now has what they call a 'black mark' on his Palestinian ID card, thus preventing him from undertaking any travel to Jerusalem and heavily restricting his movements to other parts of the Occupied Territories. However, despite this, he still persists in completing his studies and strives to one day, become a professor of political science.

Ibrahim remains confident of getting his degree and continuing his past to becoming a doctor in political science, despite the setbacks.

 From aspiring doctors and dentists to film-makers and writers, everybody I spoke to at Al Quds illustrates just how important it is to retain aspirations of a better future. However, it is a reality that Dareen's and Ibrahim's accounts of life here are echoed by many other students who study at Al Quds. I have also been told that Al Quds students are subject to this aforementioned treatment more than any others in Palestine due to the political connotations attached to the name of the campus; as Al Quds is the Arabic word for Jerusalem. Consequently, it seems getting a good education to enhance one's future here entails regular harassment, intimidation and even violence. A seemingly very poor state of affairs for human rights in the Occupied Territories.

The main building in Al Quds.

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