Palestinian students celebrate during their graduation ceremony at Birzeit University. Birzeit is the university of choice for Azza, Suhair and Loujain. However, like many Palestinian students, they are restricted from attending because the university is in the West Bank and they live in Gaza (Photo Credit: Abbas Momani/AFP/Getty Images).
By Jasmine Heiss, Amnesty International USA’s Individuals & Communities at Risk Campaigner
As I write this, an Israeli checkpoint is fading into the distance behind me. In the past three days, I’ve been traveling between Israel and the occupied West Bank, learning about human rights conditions on the ground.
When I fly back to the United States, it will be with deeper insight into the experience of human rights defenders and activists in Israel and the occupied West Bank. Yet before I leave, there are three people who I know I won’t get a chance to meet: Azza, Suhair and Loujain.
They are three Palestinian women blocked from attending the university of their choice. Why? Because it is located in the occupied West Bank. They live in Gaza - where an ongoing Israeli blockade imposes severe restrictions on freedom of movement and other human rights. Students are not allowed to pursue nearby programs in the West Bank, home to over 2.5 million fellow Palestinians.
Please help me shine a light on this injustice while I’m here in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Tell Israeli officials to stop preventing Palestinian students in Gaza from studying where they choose.
Since 2000, Israel’s blockade on education has prevented thousands of Palestinian students in Gaza from pursuing higher education in the nearby West Bank – no more than 60 miles away. This, despite the fact that both the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, are all recognized as the Occupied Palestinian Territories – one single territorial unit.
The Israeli military has cut the two apart.
Imagine all of the bright minds who were denied a better tomorrow because Israeli officials decided to collectively punish the entire population of Gaza - 1.6 million people. It’s not just wrong, this is illegal under international law. Help Palestinian students fully access education now!
The blockade has also crippled the Gaza economy, preventing many people from accessing jobs or the professional education or opportunities for development they need in order to thrive. As a result, massive numbers of Palestinians now live in a state of permanent unemployment. Around 80% depend on humanitarian aid.
The futures of students like Azza, Suhair and Loujain are severely limited, with dreams often put on pause indefinitely. Gaza desperately needs their talents. These students want the freedom to decide their own fate. We must fight for them to do exactly that.
While I’m here, I’ll be meeting with a number of officials. You can help me amplify the stories of Azza, Suhair and Loujain - take action now to urge Israel to stop denying rights to students.
I may not be able to meet with Azza, Suhair and Loujain before I leave Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, but you can help these women and others pursue a better tomorrow by supporting their access to education and human rights today.
Thank you for all you do to support human rights around the world.
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