Statement of Faculty in the UCLA Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures in response to the attack on and removal of the Palestine solidarity encampment

Published: May 6, 2024

Statement of individual faculty members of the UCLA Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures in response to the mob attack on the Palestine solidarity encampment (April 30) and the actions taken on May 1 by UCLA to remove the encampment, including police violence directed against our students, faculty, and members of our own UCLA community. 

We, the undersigned members of the UCLA Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures, are committed to the study of the languages and history of West Asia and North Africa in order to make the past come alive in all its nuances and complexities and to promote a humanistic understanding of diverse cultural and political phenomena. In studying and teaching cultural complexity from the perspective of a variety of religious, cultural, and ethnic contexts, we firmly believe in the right of all members of our community to speak freely and protest peacefully, without fearing threats or retaliation.

We are appalled by the University’s failure to protect our students during the mob attack and police teardown and eviction that unfolded during the nights and early mornings of April 30 and May 1-2.

The UCLA anti-war, Palestine solidarity encampment stood as an example of the long tradition of student activism, often exercised through instances of peaceful protest and assembly. Despite the inevitable complications surrounding most large demonstrations, the protest remained, by many accounts, self-disciplined, restrained, and committed to non-violence and de-escalation. In its composition, it echoed the tremendous diversity of UCLA students, involving individuals from a wide range of backgrounds. It was open to members of our community regardless of their ethnic, cultural, or religious affiliation.

In a reversal of previous approaches, on April 30, President Drake and Chancellor Block labeled the encampment “unauthorized” in response to unspecified “instances of violence” which the administration has yet to substantiate with clear evidence. These statements indirectly encouraged the assaults against the encampment that were launched that night. While screaming white-supremacist slurs, the assailants threw into the encampment toxic sprays, illegal fireworks and blunt objects such as pipes, bottles and bricks. Many students and faculty were left on the ground bleeding, gassed, or even concussed while private security personnel hired by UCLA and LAPD riot police stood by without intervening.

As scholars who study languages and cultures in order  to promote peace and mutual understanding despite differences and political divides, we are shocked by the way the decorum and the peaceful nature of a well-organized protest were violently targeted by individuals, many of whom appear to be unaffiliated with the university, without any intervention by campus security.

We are distressed and appalled that after failing to protect our own students, UCLA administration allowed heavily-armed public and private security forces, including UCPD, CHP, LAPD, LASD, and SRT to occupy our campus, interrupt our teaching and research activities, and finally forcibly remove the encampment on May 1–2. Multiple rounds of rubber bullets and stun grenades were fired at unarmed students, and more than 200 demonstrators, among them students and professors, were forcibly arrested. Students were struck in the face with rubber bullets and more than 20 were hospitalized. Despite  this violence, student protestors maintained their clear commitment to de-escalation, non-violence, and  peaceful protest.

As specialists of West Asia and North Africa who firmly oppose all manifestations of anti-Arab, anti-Islamic, and anti-Semitic prejudice, and in the face of the tragedy that has been unfolding on campus over the past few days, we call for a transparent, speedy, and thorough investigation, both of the failure to protect peaceful demonstrators from unprovoked, prolonged attack on the night of Tuesday, April 30, and of the decision to authorize a heavy-handed police eviction of the same demonstrators during the night of Wednesday, May 1. It is imperative that those responsible for these egregious betrayals of the campus community’s trust and safety be held to account. Nothing less than a fully independent investigation of these deeply disturbing failures, a determination of responsibility, and appropriate restorative action will rehabilitate the trust of our students and faculty in the goodwill and competence of the University’s administrative leadership.

We therefore join our esteemed colleagues from the Department of History in calling for  the following:

  1. A commitment on the part of the university to refrain from taking any disciplinary actions against peaceful protesters (such as suspensions and expulsions, retribution against employees);
  2. An independent investigation into the actions of the university administration from the encampment’s founding until its destruction (including the complicity in the violent attack on the encampment, the Chancellor’s actions that overstepped his authority, and other problematic aspects of the handling of these issues);
  3. Advocacy on the part of the university in support of the students within the legal system (including legal representation, requests for leniency);
  4. University assistance to injured students through payment of medical bills;
  5. A serious engagement on the part of the university with the demands of protesters, and a consideration of ways to open dialogue and discussion on these matters moving forward;
  6. A promise that the search process to hire a new Chancellor will directly address the issues raised by these incidents (to determine a candidate’s commitment to free expression, to the protection of our students, and to the values of the university community).


Domenico Ingenito, Associate Professor of Iranian Studies and Persian Literature 

Asma Sayeed, Associate Professor of Islamic Studies

Luke Yarbrough, Associate Professor

Solange Ashby, Assistant Professor of Egyptology and Nubian Studies

Gina Konstantopoulos, Assistant Professor

Michael Cooperson, Professor of Arabic

Kathlyn M. Cooney, Professor of Ancient Egyptian Art & Architecture

Catherine Bonesho, Assistant Professor

Anthony D. Yates, Assistant Professor

Kinda Al Rifae, Lecturer

Nouri Gana, Professor of Arabic and Comparative Literature 

Susan Slyomovics, Professor of Anthropology and Near Eastern Languages & Cultures

Lara Fabian, Assistant Professor

M. Rahim Shayegan, Professor

Abeer Hamza, Lecturer

Banafsheh Pourzangi, Lecturer 

Ali Mousavi, Adjunct Professor

(signature collection is ongoing)