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Student rights movement says UJ clashes were ‘tribally motivated’

Thabahtoona warns against undermining gravity of last week’s violence on campus

By JT - Nov 26,2016 - Last updated at Nov 26,2016

A sanitation worker cleans the area near the clock tower at the University of Jordan after classes were suspended on Thursday (Photo courtesy of Thabahtoona)

AMMAN — The National Campaign for Defending Students’ Rights (Thabahtoona) on Saturday blamed parties outside the University of Jordan (UJ) for the violent acts that took place on campus last week.

Thabahtoona said in a statement that the “volume of tribal intervention” from outside campus affirms there are parties with “private agendas benefiting from the events”. 

UJ last Thursday suspended classes after a group of people “stormed into” campus, in a continuation of another clash earlier in the week.

Campus security handled the situation and escorted the outsiders out of the university, according to an official statement issued by the administration, which added that the group stayed for 30 minutes “without inciting any quarrels”.

Social media users and UJ students circulated videos and photos of crowds of young men, some of them masked and carrying sticks, while others were throwing stones near the faculty of arts.

Citing statements reportedly released by the two sides involved in the UJ fight, Thabahtoona said that they fuel tribal affiliations and use vulgar language and insults that cannot be uttered by people with university-level education. 

These statements reveal the danger of the situation and the decreased awareness of university students who follow tribal leanings at the expense of respect for their universities, the movement said.

Thabahtoona criticised how “so many weapons, including bats and even swords”, were passed into campus last Thursday.

When students were protesting against increasing tuition fees, security personnel did not allow them to bring even cardboard into campus to write slogans on, the campaign argued.

UJ’s administration will be at fault if it deals with the incident through an “ostrich approach to solving problems”, Thabahtoona stressed. 

Attempts to undermine the gravity of what happened is “unacceptable”, the campaign warned, claiming that the clashes remained ongoing for four days and dozens of armed people entered campus by force for three days.

Eyewitnesses told The Jordan Times on Thursday that they heard screams and swearing, and saw 100 to 150 young men, some of them masked, entering the university from its northern gate.

The intruders were reportedly carrying “sticks and cleavers”.

Another student, a junior at the faculty of arts, who preferred to be unnamed, said the quarrel erupted between students from Balqa Governorate and southern governorates, adding that throughout the past week, there were smaller clashes.

The UJ administration said specialised committees in the student deanship are currently studying collected evidence, photos and videos, noting that “the university will suspend all students” found to be involved in the clashes.

Also on Saturday, the Higher Education Council denounced the recent violent events at UJ during a meeting headed by Higher Education Minister Adel Tweisi.

The council expressed its rejection of this kind of activity, saying “such acts aim to harm the image of higher education in Jordan without heeding the norms and customs rooted in the Kingdoms’ universities”.

The council instructed the UJ administration to take maximum measures against every student involved in the violent acts according to its regulations.

The council also highlighted the importance of collaborating with security forces to legally pursue all those involved in violent acts and the importance of training university security personnel and increasing their numbers to ensure a safe environment.

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