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Scholars at Risk Ireland issue Statement regarding the ongoing conflict in Israel/Palestine

Statement on threats to members of academic communities arising out of the ongoing conflict in Israel/Palestine

The ongoing conflict has led to serious threats to scholars, students and other members of academic communities and to academic freedom, in Gaza, Israel/Palestine and further afield. It has also led to the damage and destruction of academic infrastructure.

On 7 October 2023, Hamas launched an indiscriminate and brutal attack on Israel, killing approximately 1400 people and taking more than 200 hostage. Following this attack, Israel has imposed a complete siege on Gaza and carried out an incessant bombardment, killing more than 10,000 people, including more than 4400 children. A UN Commission of Inquiry states that ‘all parties to the conflict in Israel and Gaza have shown reckless disregard for civilian life and must comply with international law to prevent atrocities from continuing’ and nine United Nations Special Rapporteurs have warned there is a risk of genocide in Gaza.

The conflict is threatening a humanitarian catastrophe. The United Nations General Assembly has expressed ‘grave concern at the catastrophic humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip’ and called for a ceasefire.

Academic freedom and the right to education are among the many casualties of this catastrophe.  This has included attacks on higher educational facilities, students and staff. University students were among those killed in the Hamas attack on 7 October (here and here). Israel’s bombardment of Gaza has included attacks on educational facilities.  ReliefWeb, a service provided by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, reports that more than 625,000 students and 22,564 teachers in the Gaza strip have had no access to education for 25 days (as of 31 October 2023). Education International quotes United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNWRA) reports that at least 88 educational institutions have been directly targeted. The Israeli Defence Forces have attacked higher education institutions in Gaza including the Islamic University of Gaza and Al-Azhar University, alleging Hamas has put these to military use. The Times Higher Education cites reports that more than four hundred students and staff have been killed and that 11 higher education facilities have been partially or completely damaged by the Israeli Defence Forces. The conflict has made education impossible in Gaza and much more difficult on the West Bank. The nature of legislation prior to this immediate period has raised concerns about threats to students’ academic freedom posed by both Israel and the Palestinian authority. These attacks on higher education institutions in Gaza are in the context of ‘decades of occupation, war and blockade’.

We have also seen interferences with free expression and academic freedom. Examples include:

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has warned that there is also a dramatic increase in hatred, including antisemitism, Islamophobia and other forms of hate-speech. The London Metropolitan Police have reported significant  increases in hate crime, including antisemitic and Islamophobic offences, since the start of October 2023. This trend has also manifested itself in attacks on members of academic communities, including:

We join in the condemnation of violent conflict raised by many of our colleagues on the island of Ireland. In addition to civic action, some have called for all universities to sever partnerships or affiliations with Israeli institutions, and for academic citizens to join collectives such as Academics for Palestine.

As SAR-Ireland:

We support the calls for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

We call on all parties to the conflict to respect international law.

We call on all parties to the conflict to respect the civilian character of educational institutions and not to target them.

We call on all academic institutions and higher education bodies to consider how they can support scholars at risk from Palestine.

We call on all academic institutions and higher education bodies to commit to supporting the rebuilding of higher education in Palestine.

We call on all academic institutions and higher education bodies to defend and protect academic freedom.

We call on all academic institutions and higher education bodies to respect, protect and fulfil human rights, including the rights of free expression, education, equality and non-discrimination, and to protect members of academic communities from all forms of hate speech and hate crimes.

Scholars at Risk Ireland.

Scholars at Risk (SAR) is an international network of higher education institutions dedicated to protecting threatened scholars, preventing attacks on higher education communities and promoting academic freedom worldwide.

Scholars at Risk-Ireland is the Irish section of SAR. The SAR-Ireland committee has representatives from universities on the island of Ireland. The views here are those of the SAR-Ireland committee. For queries contact the chair of the committee for academic year 2023/2024, Prof Rory O’Connell (Ulster University).

Podcasts from The Open University give a fresh perspective on the Good Friday Agreement

To mark the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, The Open University in Ireland is launching a new 4-part podcast series exploring the impact the agreement has had on society beyond just politics.

‘A Peace of Us’ is hosted by Jordan Kenny, the Dromore-born BBC Radio 1 Newsbeat presenter and includes voices from Northern Ireland’s arts, sports and community sectors. Guests include Peter Canavan, former Tyrone Gaelic footballer and manager, Caragh Hamilton, Northern Ireland women’s footballer, Leesa Harker, award-winning writer and producer, Aoife Moore, Sunday Times journalist and former Irish Journalist of the Year, and Dawn Purvis former PUP MLA, negotiator and activist.

Together with Jordan, guests explore cross-cutting societal issues including how comedy and satire help to make sense of our complicated past, the lessons from sport that we can apply to community building and government, and why poverty and violence in our communities persists in our society 25 years on from the agreement.

Launching on 20 April, the podcast series is illustrated by local student Conor Doran.  Conor’s unique interpretation of the ‘A Peace of Us’ theme won him first place in a podcast cover art competition with Ulster University final year illustration students.

The soundtrack for the podcasts ‘Midnight 10th of December’ is provided by one of Northern Ireland’s most exciting and emerging bands Dark Tropics.

Alongside the podcast, a series of essays from key voices will delve deeper into the impact of the agreement including Henrietta Norton, stepdaughter of Mo Mowlam, John O’Doherty, Director of the Rainbow Project, Owen Reidy, General Secretary of ICTU and Ray O’Hanlon, editor of New York newspaper the Irish Echo. These combine with the podcast to create a series of alternative reflections on the wider cultural impact of the Good Friday Agreement.

The essays and podcasts will be hosted on a new Good Friday Agreement hub on OpenLearn, The Open University’s free learning platform, alongside a Spotify playlist celebrating local music, the cover art competition entries and more.

John D’Arcy, Director of The Open University in Ireland said “We wanted to bring a fresh perspective to this year’s Good Friday Agreement Anniversary.  It was a pivotal moment in our history that has had a huge impact beyond politics into arts, sports and community. 

“The tradition of storytelling is something which transcends identities across our island and this 

collection of essays and podcasts aims to make a positive contribution to our oral and written history not only in Northern Ireland but across the UK, Ireland and beyond.”

Jordan Kenny said, “Being involved in a project that’s allowed me to look in depth at the history of the place I come from has been exciting. From speaking to people who sat around tables that formed the Agreement, to people in the arts and sporting worlds who told me how it played out for them has been eye opening. I’ve learned loads from these conversations and I’m sure anyone who listens will too. Northern Ireland is a diverse and special place, and this podcast really reflects that – hearing from people outside the political world on what they think the next 25 years could look like.

Dawn Purvis commented, “The Good Friday Agreement marked a turning point in the history of Northern Ireland. A momentous occasion full of hope and optimism reflected in the turnout and vote in favour of the accord. It is therefore important to mark this 25th anniversary by reflecting on that period and asking what has changed in the intervening years and what we would like to see happen in the future. The Open University podcast series provides a unique oral history with a range of alternative voices that will be a go-to resource for anyone interested in the journey to peace.”

The Good Friday Agreement hub can be accessed here.

The University of Trento has just opened two Calls for two 12-month (renewable for further 12 months) Research Fellowships for at-risk scholars

The University of Trento has just opened two Calls for two 12-month (renewable for further 12 months) Research Fellowships for at-risk scholars who have completed their MA Degree and who would like to consolidate their postgraduate education in order to prepare for PhD applications and/or for other professional job opportunities. The call involves 14 academic structures (Departments/Centres/Schools) of the University and it is opened to different disciplines and research areas (see the integral version of the call for further details). Please note that it is possible to apply to both calls by following the same procedure for each of the call.  

SAR UniTrento CARITRO Call Application Link and Documents: 

ita: https://www.unitn.it/ateneo/bando/77185/universita-di-trento-avviso-di-selezione-per-il-conferimento-di-n-1-assegno-di-ricerca-nell-ambito-d

eng: https://www.unitn.it/en/ateneo/bando/77189/university-of-trento-call-for-the-selection-for-the-awarding-of-no-1-research-fellowship-assegno-di

SAR UniTrento ROVERETO MUNICIPALITY Application Link and Documents

ita: https://www.unitn.it/ateneo/bando/77221/universita-di-trento-avviso-di-selezione-per-il-conferimento-di-n-1-assegno-di-ricerca-nell-ambito-d

eng: https://www.unitn.it/en/ateneo/bando/77225/university-of-trento-call-for-the-selection-for-the-awarding-of-no-1-research-fellowship-assegno-di

Eligibility. The following requirements must be met:

  1. a Master degree relevant to the research project awarded by an Italian or foreign university, or an equivalent qualification obtained in a foreign country;
  2. a professional and scientific CV suitable for the research activity described in art. 1;
  3. being a foreign citizen in one of the  following situations:
    * Possession of refugee status in Italy or in another European Union State or in a State that signed the Geneva Convention;
    * Recognition of subsidiary protection status in Italy or in another European Union State;
    * Be an asylum seeker in Italy or in another European Union State;
    * Have obtained the recognition of the temporary protection in Italy or in a member country of the European Union; * Be already recognized as an “at-risk scholar” by SAR (SAR-status) or by other  accredited international organizations who work in this field [Scholar Rescue Fund (SRF) and Council for At-Risk Academics (CARA)].

Selection procedure and timeline: the selection will be carried on the basis of CV, titles, research project (using the Template attached to the application form) and interview (held remotely).

Deadline for applications: 10th March 2023, at 12.00 p.m. (noon). Applications received after the

deadline will not be accepted.

Interviews will be indicatively held between the 17th and the 21st April 2023, and selected

candidates will be contacted indicatively by the 5th May 2023. Selected candidates must communicate the acceptance of the position within 10 days after the communication of the results of the selection.

Contract duration and conditions: 12 months, renewable for other 12 months. The gross total amount is 21,000 Europer year, paid in monthly deferred rates (1,500 Euro net). The University of Trento provides for the insurance coverage and for the reimbursement of registration fees for the National Health Service.

Contract Starting Date: June 2022, or as soon as possible thereafter.

Anonymity: The University of Trento guarantees the respect of candidate’s anonymity throughout the selection process.

Contact for information related to the application procedure:

Research Selection Unit – University of Trento. Via alla Cascata, 56/C 38123 Trento (Italy)

ph. +39 0461 28 1969-1914-1620-1157; e-mail: selezioni.ricerca@unitn.it

Contact for information related to the academic structure: in the Call document it is indicated the name of the SAR scientific referent for each of the 14 academic structures. Kindly contact him/her to express your interest to apply.

SAR Ireland condemn
the ongoing abuse of
Prof Colin Harvey, Queen’s University Belfast

Colin Harvey is a Professor of Human Rights Law at Queen’s University Belfast (QUB), where he is the Director of the Human Rights Centre at QUB; a fellow of the QUB George Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice; and a former Head of the Law School. He was a former commissioner on the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission. In such capacity, Prof Harvey has engaged actively in the public sphere and has contributed to central debates on human rights protection, Brexit and Irish reunification.

Over the last few years, Prof Harvey has become the subject of attacks on social media and in sections of the press. Different commentators have questioned Prof Harvey’s integrity and actions as an academic and some individuals on social media have posted threatening content. Prof Harvey has had to take security precautions as a consequence.[i]

Several politicians have contacted Queen’s University Belfast as his employer to complain about his work and to constrain his public engagement. These interventions challenge the institutional autonomy of universities which is a condition for academic freedom. [ii]

The overall effect of these social media posts, press commentary and political interventions creates a threatening and chilling atmosphere for academic work and free expression. This is especially concerning in the context of Northern Ireland where, in the past, efforts to delegitimise professional lawyers and human rights defenders have been the prelude to violence.

A number of reputable groups have catalogued these interferences with academic freedom. Recently, this has included the  annual report by Scholars at Risk (SAR)[iii] and a SAR podcast.[iv] Calls for protections for both Prof Harvey and for academic freedom were also raised by Amnesty International[v]; and in a letter to the UK government by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression,
the Special Rapporteur on the right to education, and the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders.[vi]

We welcome Queen’s University Belfast’s statement of support for Prof Harvey,[vii] and that of  the Queen’s University Belfast and Ulster University branches of the University and College Union.[viii]

We, at SAR-Ireland, express our solidarity with Prof Harvey and his family, and condemn efforts to constrain his academic freedom and to interfere in institutional autonomy.

Scholars at Risk Ireland

11 November 2022


[i] BBC: Colin Harvey: A target has been put on my back, says Queens academic.

[ii] UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights: General Comment on the Right to Education (1999).

[iii] Scholars at Risk: Annual Report 2022 Free to Think.

[iv] Scholars at Risk: Podcast, Episode 22.

[v] Amnesty International Northern Ireland: Authorities must protect Professor Colin Harvey and academic freedom.

[vi] UN Special Rapporteurs’ Statement on threats against Colin Harvey.

[vii] Queen’s University Belfast: The University condemns the threatening and abusive commentary towards Professor Colin Harvey

[viii] The Queen’s University Belfast and Ulster University branches of the University and College Union: Statement from UCU at QUB & UCU at UU on academic freedom

Ireland 1922 Division, Crisis and Violence in Ireland

On Saturday 12 November 2022 Universities Ireland hosted the eleventh annual Decade of Centenaries conference in The Great Hall in Queen’s University Belfast. 

On the day, as well as the keynote address there were three panel discussions focusing on Crisis, Division and Violence. The popular History Blitz made a return and it was a pleasure to welcome everyone again for a very enjoyable day!

Recordings of the sessions are available below.

Photos kindly supplied by Eddie Soye

SAR Ireland Stands in Solidarity with the people of Ukraine and Ukrainian higher education

Scholars at Risk Ireland stands in solidarity with the people of Ukraine and with people around
the world, including in Russia, in condemning the ongoing acts of aggression against the
Ukrainian people and territory by the agents and armed forces of the Russian Federation.

Read full statement from Scholar at Risk Executive Director, Rob Quinn, endorsed by the following SAR sections and partner networks:

https://www.scholarsatrisk.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/SAR-Statement-of-Solidarity-with-the-people-of-Ukraine-and-Ukrainian-higher-education.pdf

Universities Ireland condemns Russian invasion of Ukraine

Universities Ireland strongly condemns the Russian invasion of Ukraine and all territorial occupations in contravention of international law.

The people of the island of Ireland are steadfast supporters of democracy and the protection of human rights.  The universities of the island contribute to this by championing freedom of speech, academic freedom, respect for peoples, respect for democratically constituted governments, and international cooperation and the end of all unlawful occupations.

We maintain these values in peace and now in war.  

Universities Ireland and all those we represent express our unwavering support and solidarity with all institutions, employees, and students within the higher education sector in Ukraine. 

Our message is directed not at the people of Russia, many of whom have demonstrated against this war on their Ukrainian neighbours, but at the Putin regime.  We support all Russian institutions of higher education that promote peace, conflict resolution, collaboration, and unequivocally oppose the acts of war in Ukraine. 

Ireland 1921 Preparing for Peace…Ready for War?

On Saturday 6 November 2021 at 10.00am Universities Ireland are hosing the tenth annual Decade of Centenaries conference and its online iteration of the series.  This year’s conference explores the themes of Truce, Treaty, Consolidation of Northern Ireland and Partition & Socio-Economic Dimensions

Please see the link for registration: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/ireland-1921-preparing-for-peaceready-for-war-tickets-186531860817

Please see full programme HERE

Urgent appeal to European Governments and EU Institutions: Take Action for Afghanistan’s scholars, researchers, and civil society actors

Urgent appeal to European Governments and EU Institutions:
Take Action for Afghanistan’s scholars, researchers, and civil society actors We, the undersigned higher education associations, networks, and leaders in the field of scholar protection, urge European governments and EU
institutions to take immediate action to secure the lives and careers of Afghanistan’s scholars, students, and civil society actors.
Many of the undersigned organisations are leaders in the field of provision of support to researchers and scholars at risk. These include the Scholars at Risk Network (SAR), the PAUSE programme in France, the Philipp Schwartz Initiative of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, the Council for At-Risk Academics and the IIE’s Scholar Rescue Fund who arrange temporary positions at higher education institutions around the world for those who are unable to work safely in their home countries. European higher education institutions are at the forefront of these efforts: over the past two
years, 80% of positions of safe haven arranged by SAR were in Europe.
Organisations supporting at-risk scholars are racing to offer assistance to researchers, scholars and civil society actors in Afghanistan who, at this moment, are desperately seeking ways to safety. For the better part of the past
twenty years these scholars and civil society actors in Afghanistan have fought for a new, rights-respecting, forward-looking, knowledge-based Afghanistan. Many have worked for or in partnership with EU institutions, NATO partners, European governments and other international and civil society organisations. Hundreds travelled to Europe to seek an education and returned to their homeland, dedicated to values of openness tolerance and free expression. These are not the values of the Taliban, so their lives are now at risk. Timely government action can still make an enormous difference. We implore you to act on their behalf now.

Specifically, we seek immediate action from European Governments and EU
institutions to:
• Continue evacuation flights for as long as possible so as to include scholars, students, and civil society actors who have supported the forward-looking, pluralist vision of Afghanistan that the EU, European governments, NATO partners and other international and civil society organisations embraced. Do not end flights until all are safely out who wish to leave the country.
• Increase resettlement quotas to help those in need of international protection, including researchers, scholars, and civil society actors. Ensure international protection is provided to current Afghan protection applicants through an expedited process, and prioritise and expedite family reunification applications.
• Create expedited complementary legal pathways for candidates who demonstrate an existing host institution, job, or sponsor, including for families, that would facilitate their arrival and earliest adjustment. Many European higher education institutions are ready to host scholars in temporary positions; capture that opportunity by expediting the
processing of individuals for whom they are ready to step forward, and providing logistical support.
• Waive any intent-to-return and home residency requirements that may apply to visa applications for Afghan scholars and researchers for the foreseeable future. Barring full waiver, issue authoritative guidance to consular and border officials supporting a determination of satisfaction of the intent to return by showing a willingness to return in the absence of the Taliban, or a credible, durable and rebuttable demonstration that the individual would be able to return and live safely under the Taliban.
• Establish a dedicated EU fellowship scheme for researchers and scholars at risk, including scholars, students, and civil society actors from Afghanistan, especially women and ethnic and religious minorities, to undertake fellowships, lectureships, researcher positions, or temporary academic positions at European higher education institutions. See the
EU-funded Inspireurope project recommendation for a dedicated scheme here. Some funds for such streams might be redirected from existing funds budgeted for Afghanistan programming, but which may not be possible to expend under the current conditions. Nevertheless, new funds will be required to meet the most urgent needs.
• Establish dedicated national fellowships for researchers and scholars at risk, including scholars, students, and civil society actors from Afghanistan, similar to existing national fellowship programmes run by the PAUSE programme in France and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation’s Philipp Schwartz Initiative in Germany. The window in which to take these steps, save lives, and redeem some measure of Europe’s investment in Afghanistan’s future is rapidly closing.
Your urgent intervention is needed to mobilize the relevant departments and agencies. The eroding situation in Afghanistan poses a threat not only to the lives of our colleagues still in Afghanistan, but to the future of that country. The moral leadership of the European Union including its commitment to human rights, rule-of-law, and multilateralism, is needed now more than ever, and it is imperative to see those commitments put into practice at this time of crisis. The European higher education community is ready to do its part, but we
need your help. If we move quickly, we can go a long way towards mitigating
the worst of the threats and demonstrate continuing commitment to the future
of Afghanistan and its people.

Endorsing Organisations:
Academic Freedom and
Internationalisation Working Group
Academics for Peace, Germany
ALLEA- All European Academies
Alexander von Humboldt Foundation
BirAraDa Association
Council for At-Risk Academics (Cara)
Central European University
Coimbra Group
Compostela Group of Universities
Council for European Studies
Czech Rectors’ Conference
German Academic Exchange Service
(DAAD)
European Association for International
Education (EAIE)
European Students Union (ESU)
European University Association (EUA)
EASA – European Association of Social
Anthropologists
Euroscience
Flemish Interuniversity Council (VLIR)
Gerda Henkel Foundation
Global Campus of Human Rights
German Rectors Conference (HRK)
Global Student Forum
IIE -SRF Europe
Inspireurope: Initiative to Promote,
Integrate and Support Researchers at
Risk
International Migration Research
Network (IMISCOE)
Irish Federation of University Teachers
(IFUT)
Marie Curie Alumni Association
Magna Charta Observatory
PAUSE
Scholars at Risk Network
SAR Denmark
SAR Europe
SAR Finland
SAR Germany
SAR Greece
SAR Italy
SAR Ireland
SAR Norway
SAR Slovakia
SAR Sweden
SAR Switzerland
Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences
swissuniversities
The Guild
Threatened Scholars Integration
Initiative of the Open Society
University Network
UAF
UNICA
Universities Austria
Universities Ireland


For more information and further action:
− Media inquiries contact: Sinead O’Gorman, Scholars at Risk
Europe, sareurope@mu.ie
− Add your organisation or network’s endorsement: Joel Hanisek,
Scholars at Risk Europe, sareurope@mu.ie
− For higher education institutions: If your institution is willing to
host at-risk individuals from Afghanistan, please complete the
survey at https://bit.ly/3kjPv9S

Scholars at Risk is an international network of over 500 higher education institutions in 40 countries, including over 350
in Europe, whose core mission is to protect threatened scholars and intellectuals, principally by arranging temporary
positions at network-member institutions for those who are unable to work safely in their home countries. Over the last 20 years our network has assisted over 1500 threatened scholars, students, and practitioners. SAR’s European office, based in Ireland, supports and coordinates activities of SAR sections in 12 European countries. SAR partners, notably the PAUSE programme in France, the Philipp Schwartz Initiative of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, the Council for At-Risk Academics and the IIE’s Scholar Rescue Fund, all leaders in the field of support to scholars, have
also arranged positions for hundreds of scholars at European higher education institutions. For information visit
www.scholarsarisk.org