During the past five years, the Middle East has been a hotspot of attacks on higher education, with Yemen suffering the most violence, according to “Education Under Attack 2020,” a new report from the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack.
Yemen suffered 130 attacks on university facilities between 2015 and 2019, “often due to shelling, explosives, or airstrikes,” out of over 300 reports of attacks on higher education facilities in the world, the report said.
Afghanistan and Syria, the next most frequently affected countries, experienced between 20 and 30 such attacks during the five-year period.
In addition, Arab university students and professors have been targeted in a number of countries, typically after they spoke out or protested against government policies. Globally, there were at least 850 cases in which state security forces, or armed groups allied with governments, used excessive force against university students or personnel, killing, injuring or detaining them.
These incidents were reported in 73 countries, with the largest number of incidents in Ethiopia, India, Iran, Palestine, Nicaragua, Sudan, Turkey, and Venezuela.
More Than 11,000 Attacks Globally
When all levels of education are taken into account, more than 22,000 students, teachers, and academics worldwide were injured or killed in more than 11,000 attacks in 93 countries over the last five years. Although the number of attacks was a little lower than the 12,700 registered in the coalition’s previous report, covering the years 2013 to 2017, the number of countries reporting incidents increased from 74 in the earlier period.
Diya Nijhowne, executive director of the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack, said in a statement that “schools and universities should be safe havens, not sites of destruction or fear.” The New York-based coalition brings together United Nations agencies and nongovernmental organizations, and is supported by Norway, Qatar and several foundations.
The targeting of universities has been particularly pronounced in the Arab region. Globally, two-thirds of attacks on campuses and university buildings took place in the Middle East. “Attacks on higher education infrastructure is something we don’t see in other regions,” says Marika Tsolakis, lead researcher for the “Education Under Attack 2020” report.
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