UK revokes visa of law student who addressed pro-Palestine protest

Dana Abuqamar says her comments at a rally last year which raised suspicion were mischaracterised.

Dana Abuqamar
Dana Abuqamar, a 19-year-old Palestinian law student, says her visa has been revoked [Screengrab/Al Jazeera]

The United Kingdom has revoked the visa of a Palestinian student after she participated in a pro-Palestine demonstration at her university.

Dana Abuqamar told Al Jazeera that the Home Office withdrew her visa casting her as a “national security” threat, following remarks she made at the protest last year.

“During this genocide, the UK Home Office decided to revoke my student visa following public statements supporting the Palestinian right to exercise under international law to resist oppression and break through the siege that was illegally placed on Gaza for over 16 years,” said Abuqamar, who leads the Friends of Palestine society at the University of Manchester.

“Freedom of expression is a fundamental human right, but it seems to not apply to ethnic minorities, particularly Muslims and Palestinians like myself.”

Last year, the 19-year-old law student revealed that she had lost 15 family members during Israel’s war on Gaza.

A Palestinian woman walks down the stairs of a house hit in an Israeli strike,
A Palestinian woman walks down the stairs of a house hit in an Israeli strike, in Rafah, on May 9, 2024 [File: Hatem Khaled/Reuters]

Abuqamar, who is in her final year of study, spoke of a sense of “pride” at a pro-Palestine event last year, following Hamas’s October 7 attacks in Israel.

“We are really full of joy at what happened,” she said.

However, she later told the BBC that her comments were misconstrued and that the deaths of any “innocent civilian should not be condoned, ever”.

Hamas, the group which governs Gaza, launched an unprecedented incursion into southern Israel on October 7. During that assault, 1,390 people were killed and hundreds were taken captive. It sharply escalated the historic Israel-Palestine conflict, setting off Israel’s latest and deadliest war on Gaza.

To date, about 35,000 Palestinians have been killed in the strip, much of which is reduced to rubble.

A Home Office spokesperson told Al Jazeera in a statement that it does not comment on individual cases.

They added, however, that permission to stay could be revoked in “instances where people have engaged in unacceptable or extremist behaviour, such as activity that fosters hatred, which may lead to inter-community violence, or where the person is associated or has been associated with people involved in terrorism”.

In recent weeks, activists across British universities have joined the global student-led movement calling for an end to the war from their campuses.

But the encampments, where calls are centred on universities divesting from companies aiding Israel’s war efforts, are drawing criticism from officials and some Jewish groups on allegations of anti-Semitic abuse at protests.

On Thursday, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak urged university bosses to take a zero-tolerance approach to discrimination and announced 500,000 pounds ($626,000) in funding for the University Jewish Chaplaincy service to provide welfare services to Jewish students.

“Universities should be places of rigorous debate but also bastions of tolerance and respect for every member of their community,” Sunak said.

“A vocal minority on our campuses are disrupting the lives and studies of their fellow students and, in some cases, propagating outright harassment and anti-Semitic abuse. That has to stop.”

Britain has not witnessed the kind of violent scenes on campuses that the United States has, including heavy police crackdowns and clashes between protesters and counter-protesters.

The British students say their rallies are peaceful and are joined by many Jewish undergraduates and scholars.

Earlier this week, the Cambridge University Jews for Justice in Palestine group and the Jewish Society at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London pledged their support for the pro-Palestine demonstrations.

Source: Al Jazeera