Today, Palestine Legal wrote to George Washington University (GW), demanding that the university withdraw a ‘Warning Letter’ and threat to sanction a Palestinian-American student for hanging a Palestinian flag outside his bedroom window.
On October 26, a campus police officer came to the dorm room of Ramie Abounaja, a pre-med student at GW, and ordered him to remove a Palestinian flag hanging from his window. The officer explained that the department had received numerous complaints about the flag, and declared that he would leave only after the flag was removed.
The following week, after receiving the police report, GW issued Ramie a ‘Warning Letter’ for the incident.
Confused as to what rule or regulation, if any, he violated, Ramie wrote GW on November 4. In his letter, Ramie wrote:
I felt like I was being singled-out, because of my heritage and the viewpoint of my speech, for something I’ve seen dozens of students, fraternities and other student groups do in my three years at GW . . . The events of the last week have left me feeling humiliated, upset and like I can’t even feel safe in my own dorm room. I’ve had finals this week and have found it very hard to study or to think about anything else.
Since then, Ramie has still received no communication from GW specifying what rule GW believes Ramie has broken. GW has provided Ramie with no hearing, nor any opportunity to respond to the allegations against him.
This morning, Palestine Legal wrote to GW:
It is clear, as reflected by comments from the police officer, that Mr. Abounaja was questioned, censored and sanctioned because some people do not like Palestinians or because they disagree with the viewpoint expressed.
The letter explains how Title VI of the Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin by institutions that receive federal funding.
“It’s troubling that at a time when Islamophobic and anti-Arab sentiment is on the rise, GW is choosing to ignore its obligations to its students and under the law,” said Radhika Sainath, an attorney with Palestine Legal, which recently issued a report documenting the widespread suppression of speech in favor of Palestinian rights. “GW must allow Ramie to express his identity just as it does for any other student on campus.”