Friday, 02 October 2009
Campaign Launched To Free LSE Student Trapped In Gaza
(acknowledgements to James Caspell)
Students and alumni of the London School of Economics have started a campaign to allow a student, Othman Sakallah, to be able to leave Gaza and continue his studies at the university.
Othman was successful in applying to the university to study a postgraduate course at LSE in the coming academic year. His application was assisted by the Palestine Solidarity Initiative, which itself was founded by alumni and former governors of the School.
However, a combination of the ongoing Israeli siege of Gaza and the effects of the massacre undertaken by the Israeli military last Winter has left Othman and his family homeless, with little hope of him independently obtaining the financial and diplomatic assistance required to exit to travel to Britain.
The arbitrary Israeli border controls penning over a million civilians into the Gaza Strip, coupled by the economic siege will prevent Othman from raising the funds to ever take up his degree without outside assistance. These problems have been compounded by the recent demolition of his family’s home by the Israeli military.
As a result, Othman has personally written to LSE Director, Howard Davies, in an effort to secure their assistance. So far Davies is yet to reply.
In the past, LSE’s governing body, the LSE Council stated that, “It is not the practice of the School to take political positions, unless its own policies and practices are at issue.” Students and alumni are therefore hopeful that given the Israeli Occupation is now directly affecting one of its own offer holders, it will look to assist Othman in any way possible.
As a result, a broad based campaign is being built to bring pressure on the School to waive Othman’s tuition fees, provide him with a basic living allowance and facilitate his exit from imprisonment in Gaza.
This is not the first time that the LSE’s attention has been drawn to grave need for defending the Palestinian right to education.
The LSESU has been mandated to provide support for the Palestinian Right To Education Campaign by popular student vote and last year around 40 students staged a successful occupation of a lecture theatre, demanding that the LSE support provide more support for Palestinian students. As a result, the waiver of application fees for all Palestinians living under Israeli occupation was agreed, along with material assistance and a commitment to facilitate Palestine-specific scholarships.
A spokesperson for the Palestine Society at LSE stated: “Students will do all we can to secure the necessary assistance for Othman from the School. Students have consistently demonstrated solidarity with the people of Palestine, and we expect the School to meet our expectations to allow Othman to continue his studies.”
James Caspell a co-founder of the Palestine Solidarity Initiative, and a former governor and student at the LSE, added, “Othman’s story is simply tragic and is a direct result of the systematic oppression and racism of the Israeli Occupation. There are millions of Palestinians like him, but in this case LSE has a direct responsibility to provide all the assistance necessary for one of their students to continue his education. This is not a time to feel sorry, but a time to demonstrate solidarity, which it is in the clear interests and ability of LSE to do.”
Aled Dilwyn Fisher, General Secretary of the LSE Students' Union, also fully backs the campaign, stating, "Students from around the globe look to advance their education at LSE and nothing should stand in the way of their ability, especially not a cruel and unjustifiable siege, or the crippling effects of a brutal war."
"International pressure has been brought to bare before, as in the case of those students who were released to pursue their Fulbright scholarships in the US. LSE and other supporters of human rights and justice must stand up again against the oppressive actions of the Israeli government, and for the numerous students denied their education across the world".
Notes for Editors:
1. The Palestine Solidarity Initiative facilitates solidarity with Palestinian students and empowers those who are systematically denied of opportunities to fulfil their academic potential. PSI provides a mechanism for people to assist Palestinians by encouraging and supporting their application to the vast array of Masters degree programmes on offer in the UK. For more information visit: http://www.palestinesolidarity.org