NEAR Newsletter October 2006
Welcome to the NEAR Newsletter. In this edition you will find our most recent Action Alerts and also an ‘Academic Freedom in the Media’ section, listing news by country (October 2006). Any comments and suggestions about the content and layout of the newsletter will be gratefully received at email@example.com.
NEAR Action Alerts *Taken from the NEAR website
A Times Higher Education Supplement article informs that Suman Gupta, director of the Ferguson Centre for African and Asian Studies at the Open University, stated that five of his collaborators where denied entry in the U.K., even having with a full sponsorship of the Open University. Professor Gupta had to cancel his international workshop when five of his Moroccan collaborators where prevented from entering the U.
After 18 months spent in prison for massages posted in his blog, student Mojtaba Saminejad was formally released. He was serving a sentence of two years and 10 months, after being sentenced in March 2005 for "publishing false information with the aim of unsettling public opinion" and "immoral" behaviour and "insulting the Supreme Guide.
Since May 2006 teachers working in the Oaxaca region in Mexico have been striking asking for a raise in salaries and an improvement in their working conditions. Over the course of the strike action the police and paramilitary units have cracked down on those teachers. Several people have been killed and four of the strike leaders been detained.
‘Education here is a complete shambles. Professors are leaving, and the situation - the closed roads and bridges - means that both students and teachers find it difficult to get in for classes. In some departments in my institute attendance is down to a third. In others we have instances of no students turning up at all’ this statement was made to a Guardian journalist by a 60-year-old science professor in Iraq.
Aref Dalilah, former dean of the faculty of economics of Aleppo University has been in prison dince September 2001, Amnesty International (A.I.) expressed its concern about his deteriorating health, he is 63. A.I. reports that he recently suffered a stroke and is now completely numb down the left side of his body, and his left hand and foot are swollen.
Student Mohammad Abdallah and his father the journalist and writer Ali Abdallah, were released from prison on 4 October 2006. They have been in detention since 23 March 2006. They had been imprisoned for "criticising the state of emergency laws" in effect since 1963 and "insulting the president of the state security court".
Balasingham Sugumar, a 50 year old Sri Lankan Dean of Faculty has disappeared after being abducted from his house by armed men in civilian clothes. His whereabouts are unknown since the end of September 2006. Amnesty International (A.I.) expressed grave concerns for his safety. Mr Sugumar is the Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Culture at Eastern University, Batticaloa Town, Batticaloa District.
Fazel Khan, a sociology lecturer at the University of KwaZulu Natal (UKZN), faces a disciplinary committee and possible a dismissal for an interview he gave to members of the media. The Freedom of Expression Institute (FXI), a member of IFEX reports this is not an isolated case. The Organisation informs that in the past six months, there seems to be a certain fear in the University Staff (Academics, Students and Workers) in challenging or criticising the university administration.
Five student leaders of the organisation 88 Generation Students have been in held in custody by Burmese authorities since the end of September 2006. Support for the detained students as well as pressure on the government to release them is growing. According to a statement by the organisation Ko Min Ko Naing, Ko Htay Kywe, Ko Ko Gyi, Pyone Cho were arrested by authorities in their respective homes in the morning of 27 September 2006.
Several leaders of The Zimbabwe National Students' Association (ZINASU) who organised a protest march on 11 October 2006 were arrested and reportedly assaulted and detained overnight at the Avondale Police Station and Harare Central Police Station. Around 800 students participated in the demonstration in Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital, demanding the improvement of conditions at the country's universities and tertiary colleges as well as an increase in their payouts.
The Guardian newspaper reports that the Government has asked U.K. lecturers and university staff to ‘spy’ on Muslim students who they suspect of being involved in Islamic extremism and supporting terrorist violence. According to the article the Department for Education has drawn up a series of proposals in an 18-page document which are to be sent to universities and other centres of higher education before the end of the year.
Around 3 million students gathered in the centre of Chile’s capital Santiago during a one day strike called for on 18 October 2006. They were dispersed by police with tear gass and water. According to Chilean Home Office a total of 291 students have been arrested but media reports give a higher number.
Thet Win Aung, a 34 year old student leader and one of Amnesty International’s Prisoner of Conscience, died in Mandalay Prison on 16 October 2006. He was in prison since 1998 for taking part in organizing peaceful small-scale student demonstrations which called for improvements to the educational system and the release of political prisoners.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a paper called ‘Denying the Right to Education’ raising the issue of students banned from Iranian Universities for their political beliefs. The paper informs that only in the last year at least 17 students learned that the government was barring them from registering to take up university places (six during the past academic year and 11 during the current one).
Several university lecturers were sacked after they took part in a strike called by the Universities Academic Staff Union (Uasu). The precise number is unknown since some reports state that three lecturers have been sacked, other raise the number to 15. Apparently another 15 have been suspended from Kenyatta University, 18km east of Nairobi.
The Chinese Government has sent riot police to stop a mass rally held by students of Technology institute of Ganjiang. Police forced university students not to leave the campus and cut telephone and internet lines to the Institute. Police previously clashed with protesting College students in the southern Jiangxi province.
** Please continue to send us any relevant cases involving threats to academic freedom and education rights, for potential alerts.
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