SOAS University suspends pro-Palestine students after protest

SOAS. Editorial credit: Tupungato

London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) has been accused of “political repression” after it suspended several students after a Gaza rally.

The SOAS Palestine Society is accusing university authorities of censorship following a number of suspensions of students who participated in a pro-Palestine rally on Monday, October 9th.

In a statement released on X, the student society said: “We resolutely condemn this act of repression and silencing and call on SOAS management to stop participating in widespread efforts to suppress Palestinian solidarity organizing designed to hide the crimes committed against the Palestinian people.”

Hundreds of students reportedly attended last Monday’s rally “in solidarity with the people of Gaza.”

But on Thursday 12th suspensions of students began, with warnings issued by the university raising fears over the education of the students involved in the protest.

In a statement released to British press, SOAS said: “We regret that in this instance that despite agreeing an area for the Students’ Union Palestine Society to conduct its rally, the institution’s event and venue protocols were not followed even after multiple requests to do so… During the rally, multiple fire alarms were activated across our buildings that forced us to evacuate all buildings, which created a potentially significant health and safety issue as well as the school having to cancel lectures and all SOAS activities for the rest of the day.”

SOAS added: “We wish to be clear that this suspension pending a further investigation is being imposed on a small number of students not because they engaged in solidarity action, but because they violated an agreement with the executive, supported by the Students’ Union, which disrupted our teaching, learning and wider activities.”

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But the Palestine Society denies any involvement in the fire alarm incident stating, “needless to say, no Palestine Solidarity member was in any way responsible for the alarm sounding.”

The protest started on the front steps of the main building and later moved away. It was around this time that the fire alarm went off causing the building evacuations.

The Palestine Society has urged students to sign a petition demanding the university drop all proceedings and “re-establish the right to protest on the steps of the main building, the historic centre of activism on campus.”

In a statement sent to 5Pillars, the Palestine Society responded to the statements issued by SOAS authorities.

Pro-Palestine protests have been demonised by the Home Secretary

“SOAS is using claims of health and safety code violations to crack down on dissent within the university and silence those who have been most active in amplifying pro-Palestine voices on campus. Several students, including committee members have been suspended from campus, and our committee members that were not even present at the rally were issued a formal warning. All of this is being done prior to formal investigation within the university or a completion of the student disciplinary process.”

SOAS Palestine Society also added: “This must be understood in the ongoing attempts by SOAS to undermine pro-Palestine organizing on campus. In recent weeks, SOAS has invited organisations directly funded by the Israeli embassy to set up student groups on campus while security has begun to closely monitor our events on campus. We call for SOAS to immediately reinstate suspended students and allow them to attend lectures, and end its links with Israeli institutions and companies which it has investments with.”

As Gaza continues to suffer from daily Israeli bombings, Palestine solidarity movements in Britain have been targeted by a number of controversial accusations.

Home Secretary Suella Braverman described a weekend march by thousands of Palestine activists outside Downing Street as an “intimidating mob” engaging in “antisemitic discourse.”

The BBC was also forced to issue an apology on Monday after a “poorly phrased” description of pro-Palestine protesters sparked outrage, describing the attendees as “expressing support for Hamas.”

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