About 400 students and academics protested at Nottingham University on 28 May against the attempts currently underway to deport Hicham Yezza, a former university student now employed on the campus.
The size of the protest no doubt represented the popularity of Hich and the real knowledge of the injustice of the arrest of Hich along with his friend Rizwaan Saber under the Prevention of Terrorism Act that preceded the deportation moves.
Those attending the rally listened in intermittent heavy rain whilst extracts of the document that Hich downloaded for a friend from a US government website were read by numerous academics at the University. Local MP Alan Simpson made an impassioned speech attacking the University’s creation of a climate of fear at the University. The protest then went on to the University administration building where a silent protest was held with mouths symbolically gagged. At this stage colleagues of Hich held placards out of the windows in support of him.
The downloaded document that led to the police being called in by the University to make arrests was downloaded by Hich to assist Rizwaan with his political research for his PhD on terrorism. Both continued to be held despite the fact that Rizwaan’s supervisor and personal tutor had both vouched for the legitimate and academic reason for him needing to consult the document.
Both Hich and Rizwaan were known to the University authorities. Hich had been long active in the University of Nottingham's Peace Movement and is editor of a campus based magazine Ceasefire. Rizwaan had been active on the Israel/ Palestine issue and the University recently called in the police and had Rizwaan arrested for erecting along with others a cardboard wall, causing minor inconvenience for people going into the library, but attempting to give a taste of what it must be like living with the Occupation wall erected in Palestinian territories. The circumstances around the arrest have been posted on Youtube which people can see on http://youtube.com/watch?v=uZLwtit8GXM.
Rizwaan was released after a week of terrible treatment. Hich remains in detention (now in Dover after being moved to and from three different detention centres). He still faces an attempt to deport him back to Algeria from which he moved to the UK 13 years ago as a teenager.
Hich's politics are not hidden. It is laughable that he could be considered someone likely to be involved in the promotion of terrorism.
Hich wrote in the last issue of the magazine he edits this Spring, "We believe in the power of ideas and we would like you to join us in our quest for a more sustainable, better-run world. Idealism is dismissed as an irrelevant luxury in a world dominated by cyncism and real-politik – well ideal may be redundant, but idealists certainly not. From Martin Luther King to Mandela, it's the very people who think the unthinkable that make the impossible … possible"
Does that sound like the writings of a Bin-Laden or an Omar Bakri Mohammad?
I don't exactly know how Hich would describe himself, probably as a libertarian or even an anarchist of some form. But is that now a reason for deportation? Indeed his politics would probably make him a target for the political Islamists in Algeria as well as the repressive military hat are also strong there.
The University of Nottingham is clearly intent on developing a spirit of fear and intimidation amongst its students and staff and not one of freedom.
Unfortunately the University's actions have not led to any complaint from the Local Association of the UCU nor the President of the NUS at the University, Gerald Bates. Both the NUS and the UCU have been uncritical of the University's actions restricting themselves to expressing concern at the speed of the deportation process. Both refused to support the protest against the deportations of Hich because it was also critical of the University's actions.
The fact that the protest was so large with so many academics as well as students in attendance makes it quite clear that this campaign will continue even stronger over the next few days and questions will probably asked in the UCU and NUS over many months.
But there is also a need for urgent action to stop Hich's deportation. For immediate advice on support action to take, consult freehichamyezza.wordpress.com/what-can-we-do
Police Crack Down on Academic Freedom
The University of Nottingham is a thriving hub of student activism and heated debate. The campus has seen Starbucks come and go after a huge outcry after the University attempted to make it part of the library building. But no issue has warranted the anger and disgust that has been expressed by students and lecturers alike in recent weeks. Two members of the university community Hicham Yezza and Rizwaan Sabir, a member of staff and a student respectively, were arrested under the Terrorism Act on 14th May. They were incarcerated for six days, without any explanation of their crime. Their family and friends were interrogated, their mobile phones and laptops were confiscated and their homes meticulously searched.
Less than a day after their arrest, there was outcry from all those who know the suspected terrorists. They had been arrested for possessing terrorist material. Unfortunately, the police failed to investigate the case thoroughly enough to find out that the student was researching his dissertation on terrorism, and the illegal material was downloaded from a US government website, and is also available from the good people at Amazon.com. A local police officer has been quoted as saying, “This would never have happened if he had been a white student”.
Upon realisation of their error, and in one of the most callous attempts to save face, the police re-arrested the innocent Hicham Yezza on immigration grounds. The Police alleged, despite the fact that he has resided, studied and worked at University of Nottingham for 13 years problem-free, that he should not be in the country, and should be deported back to Algeria. He has been imprisoned and moved around privately owned detention centres, spending all day in solitary confinement ever since.
The pouring rain of 28th May could not stop over 500 protesters, comprising outraged students, academics and local residents, making their collective voices heard. Congregating outside the university library in a completely silent demonstration apart from the reading of the “terrorist material” and some rousing words from lecturers and local Labour MP Alan Simpson. Simpson articulated the community’s fury at the university, police force and members of government for the parts they had played in the events leading up to the protest:
“If we allow this to be done in our name, in our silent collusion, we become the architects of our own totalitarianism … If Hich had been white, if he had been blond, he would not be standing alone without the support of the university”
Over 65 academics have signed a petition urging Nottingham University to ensure Hicham receives a fair trial, and thousands more signatures have gone to petitions demanding justice for Hicham, and have been received by the Home Office and MPs. Hich, still with high hopes, sent this message to his supporters:
“My spirits couldn’t be higher, my determination is rock solid, I have every intention of fighting this to the very end and I thank all of you for sharing in my struggle. Viva la revolucion!”