The arrest and detention of social worker, and highly regarded human rights defender, Munther Amira has provoked an outcry in the international social work community. Munther Amira, the former Secretary General of the Palestinian Union of Social Workers and Psychologists (PUSWP), was illegally arrested at the Northern entrance to Bethlehem on December 27th whilst peacefully protesting against the detention and mistreatment of child political prisoners, including Ahed Tamimi.
Munther Amira does not stand alone. In a show of cooperative solidarity between the PUSWP and the IFSW, an international campaign to release Amira has been initiated and includes an online change.org petition with more than 8,000 signatures from social workers and human rights defenders worldwide.
Large numbers of social workers and human rights organizations from across the world have supported the campaign demanding the immediate and unconditional release of Amira. The following are some statements that have been issued by the Raed Amira from the PUSWP, the petitioner Filipe Duarte and the IFSW Human Rights commissioner, which call for Munthe’s immediate and unconditional release.
Raed Amira, from the PUSWP and IFSW representative for Palestine stated that Munther Amira was illegally arrested for peacefully demonstrating to defend the rights of children who have been detained by the Israeli authorities. As is standard Israeli practice, his court was postponed several times without providing clear list of accusations. He has insisted that the global IFSW-led campaign must continue until the release of Amira is secured; the movement will continue to draw global attention to the pandemic of the illegal arrest of Palestinian children by Israeli authorities. Raed Amira also stated that Palestinian social workers are facing daily harassment by occupying Israeli forces and that it “is not the first time” that the Israelis have arrested social workers—many of whom still languish in Israeli jails under what is called “administrative detention.”
Dr. Rory Truell – IFSW General Secretary–said that he is “impressed with social workers who resist the occupation non-violently. Social workers in Palestine have an incredibly tough job trying to keep children safe from the occupying forces and the settlers.” Truell continues by stating that “very often, social workers are arrested, shot and sometimes killed when they are performing duties that are consistent with social work’s fundamental principles and values of ‘respect for all people’s rights’. I have also met social workers in Israel who are standing against their government, demanding an end to the occupation and for all to live safely, securely and will their full range of freedoms. All such social workers are heroes.”
Filipe Duarte, the petitioner and social worker, member of the Canadian Association of Social Workers (CASW), also staked his support for Amira. According to Duarte, “Munther’s commitment to defend the rights of his own people and the rights of Palestinian children who are among the most vulnerable, clearly lays out the values and principles of the global definition of social work: promote and advocate for peace, social justice and human rights to enhance wellbeing and the liberation of people. Munther Amira has proven over the years how social workers can stand up to honor the core values and principals of social work profession, no matter where we live, our religion, our race or country of origin.”
Nigel Hall, IFSW Human Rights Commissioner, also threw his support behind Amira, stating that “Amira was conducting his protest in a peaceful and non-violent way. As such, Amira should not have been arrested for exercising his basic democratic right to free speech and campaigning over human rights concerns.” Hall also confirmed that though the focus is securing the release of Amira from Ofer prison, fellow international social work campaigners are closely monitoring his health and wellbeing.
As in all cases where our colleagues are unjustly treated, the international social work community stands with Munther Amira, and with all Palestinian social workers who protect and defend the rights of Palestinian children and refugees on a daily-basis.