string(6) "london"

Students demand SOAS reverse suspensions of students involved in pro-Palestinian rally

Suspended students have allegedly not been allowed to attend classes since last month

Students at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) have written letters demanding the return of peers suspended following a Palestinian solidarity rally.

The SOAS Palestine Society, which organised the rally on 9th October, accused the university last month of an “act of political repression” for suspending four participants and issuing “formal warnings” to its members not even present at the event. The suspended students are allegedly “still not allowed to attend classes and lectures.”

Writing to the School of Languages, Cultures and Linguistics, a group of Master’s students called on the department to demand the reversal of suspensions and “show solidarity with the people of Gaza,” The Telegraph reported.

In a statement sent to The London Tab, SOAS maintained the suspensions were justified and were only taken against the students because “event and venue protocols were not followed.”

The uni is referring to how the rally was held against advice on the steps of SOAS’ Main Building and that multiple fire alarms went off during the event, which “created a potentially significant health and safety issue” and disruptions to teaching. The Palestine Society denied setting off fire alarms on purpose.

In addition to calling for the return of suspended students by “publicly calling for their immediate reinstatement at SOAS”, the postgraduate students demanded their school to release “a statement affirming institutional support for a solidarity with the Palestinian people, upholding their right to return, liberation, and resistance, and calling for an end to the siege and bombardment of Gaza.” 

They went on to say “solidarity is not an potion, it’s a necessity” and that they “cannot understand SOAS’s crackdown on student advocacy outside of its history as a finishing school for the British Empire.”

Having publicised the statement through its social media, the SOAS Palestine Society called on students from other departments to echo the demands.

“We call on students of other departments to condemn the suspensions at SOAS, for students to be allowed back into lectures and classes, and for SOAS to end its links with Israel,” the society stated.

In a statement to The London Tab, a SOAS spokesperson said: “Students at SOAS have not been suspended for taking part in a Palestine solidarity action. SOAS worked with the SOAS Students’ Union to make a suitable location available on campus for the solidarity event.

“However, when the event took place on 9th October, it was held on the steps of SOAS’ Main Building, violating our health and safety protocol. Fire alarms were set off and part of the estate was vandalised, halting lectures for the day. The small number of suspensions relate to these incidents.”

Related articles recommended by this author:

• ‘Horrific incitement to violence’: Jewish students’ union slams UCL-UCU Palestine stance

• London student societies accused of ‘supporting’ Hamas after its attack on Israel