The students who left their conflict-torn home in Syria to come get the best education in the region at AUB never thought they’d be silenced in a country which sports itself to be the beacon of free speech in the Near East at a university whose charter boasts about the importance of freedom especially that of speech.
Some AUB students gathered on Monday in support for the Palestinians of Gaza. The sit-in was organized by the Secular Club, the Palestinian Club and the Civil Welfare Club, which is the club of the SSNP at AUB. The protesters were joined by Syrian students from the AUB community who wanted to express their sympathy towards Gaza. A lot of them also happen to be members of the Secular Club.
The protestors held up banners. They shouted against the atrocities taking place in that sector of living hell. They shouted for ears that will not listen, hoping in vain that they do. “The people want freedom.” The students were talking about the freedom of the people in Gaza.
But it wasn’t understood that way.
The freedom that those students sought in AUB and which they thought they had was narrowed down by the narrow-minded hypocrisy of some of AUB’s political parties, representing the agenda of their national bigger heads, to what they believe speech should be about.
Some SSNP students, who were part of the protest, took it upon them when they saw the posters that those Syrian students held to make sure they were silenced for drawing similarities between their struggles as Syrians and the struggles of the people in Gaza… because the posters offended them. “Freedom blowing from Houran to Gaza” offended them. A poster from Deir el Zour offended them. Mentioning the Palestinians of Syria’s refugee camps bothered them. So they tore the posters off. And they beat up one guy and threatened others and ganged a professor whom they knew was with the Syrian revolution because they saw them as a provocation.
Some of the students are still receiving threats today. The same people who threatened a friend yesterday followed him around AUB today… up to the cab that was taking him home where they started shouting and tried to assault him. How longer should AUB students be forced to tolerate the hypocritical stupidity of others who believe only their version of the truth goes?
I don’t know the absolute truth about the politics of it all. I don’t pretend to. But neither do they. I do not think about zionist plans for the region when I think about the situation in Syria. But I don’t mind if they do. I do mind though that they have no problem with people getting killed when it works with their political agenda but have no issue whatsoever with others getting killed just because it serves a purpose they believe is righteous.
Those students seem more knowledgeable about the struggles of the Syrians than the Syrians and they sure as hell know more about the daily struggles of Palestinians than the Palestinians themselves.
Syrians at AUB today are not allowed to speak about the atrocities taking place in their own home without a Lebanese silencing them. They are not allowed to express sympathy stemming from their own struggles towards a place that they can identify with more than others.
Some people may not agree with what those Syrians and Palestinians have to say but they have every right as people first and foremost and as AUB students second to say it especially inside their own campus.
The security personnel at AUB, which is usually very active in stopping such quarrels, didn’t bother. The IDs of students, typically taken in similar scenarios, were never demanded here. The AUB administration which approved the rally that took place within its campus has to take disciplinary measures against those who believe they are above reproach. It is beyond vital for those who think they can silence others this way to face consequences for their mindless actions. It is beyond important for the AUB administration to let the students who were silenced that they care about restoring their voices.