Washington DC Student Forced to Remove Palestinian Flag
TEHRAN (Tasnim) - A student at George Washington University has been forced by police to remove a Palestinian flag he was hanging from his dorm room -- despite countless flags hanging from other windows in the dormitories.
Ramie Abounaja, a 20-year-old pre-med student has also been threatened with future disciplinary action despite complying with the police, Sputnik News reported on Thursday.
On October 26, a police officer arrived at Abounaja’s Washington, DC, dorm room to order the removal of flag. The officer cited receiving multiple complaints and explained that he would not be leaving until it was removed, which the student complied with.
The following week, the student received a letter from the school’s Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities, which oversees disciplinary issues. “This letter serves as a warning that this behavior is a violation of the ‘Code of Student Conduct’ and/or the Resident Community Conduct Guidelines,” it began.
“As a member of the larger residential community we hope that you will be respectful of your peers and be aware of your behavior. The act of an individual has a profound impact on the community. … Subsequent reports naming you as a subject may result in disciplinary action taken by the university.”
The student noted that other students have been allowed to continue hanging their national flags from their windows, and that he is being selectively targeted.
“I felt like I was being singled out, because of my heritage and the viewpoint of my speech, for something I’ve seen dozens of students, fraternities and other student groups do in my three years at GW,” Abounaja wrote in a letter to the school.
Nationwide, there appears to be a crackdown taking place on pro-Palestinian speech and particularly against the BDS movement which aims to boycott Israel over their treatment of the Palestinian people.
Palestine Legal, a US civil rights advocacy organization, has reported 140 instances of suppression of Palestine advocacy in the first six months of 2015, 80 percent of which were on college campuses.
After Palestine Legal published an open letter to the George Washington University regarding their treatment of Abounaja and demanding an apology, explanation, and for them to retract their future disciplinary notice, the university’s media relations released a statement claiming that it wasn’t discrimination and that no students may have flags hanging from the school’s housing.
“The George Washington University is committed to fostering a welcoming and safe environment for every member of the GW community, and we encourage students to share their rich diversity of backgrounds, experiences and views with their peers. GW has not banned any flags from its campus; however, the university’s Residential Community Conduct Guidelines prohibit the hanging of any object outside of a residence hall window (Section III. 7). These guidelines apply to all on-campus housing residents.”
Following the school’s statement, Students for Justice in Palestine at GW released a statement of their own, calling the university on their hypocrisy.
The student group alleged that the selective enforcement points to an anti-Palestine sentiment and that “flags of other countries hang out of dorm windows with no disciplinary consequence.”
They continued on to state that “selective reinforcement of these rules is discrimination. In this moment of rising Islamophobia in the United States, it is contradictory that a university that advertises inclusivity and diversity would act like this.”