Why social workers are demanding release of Palestinian rights defender

POSTED: March 9, 2018
SOURCE: The Guardian


A section of Israel’s separation barrier runs along the Aida refugee camp in the West Bank town of Bethlehem


The arrest and detention of Munther Amira, a 48-year-old Palestinian social worker and human rights defender, has provoked an outcry in the international social work community.

Amira was arrested by Israeli soldiers in Palestine on 27 December 2017 while peacefully participating in a rally in Bethlehem in the West Bank. He was protesting against the detention and alleged mistreatment of Palestinian child political prisoners, including 17-year-old Ahed Tamimi (aged 16 when arrested) who was detained a few days before.

Amira lives and works at the Aida refugee camp in the West Bank, and is the director of the Aida Youth Centre. Amira is also the head of the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee, a grassroots resistance movement formed in 2008. He previously served as secretary-general of the Palestinian Union of Social Workers and Psychologists.

I haven’t met Amira, but his values, dignity and legacy to defend the human rights of Palestinian children are renowned in the international social work community. In a statement released by the British Association of Social Workers(BASW), Amira is described as “a highly esteemed and respected colleague well-known to a number of BASW members”.

On 4 January 2018, when Raed Amira, human rights representative of the International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW) in Palestine, shared on social media the news about Amira’s arrest, I immediately felt that I needed to take action on his behalf. I launched a change.org petition demanding his immediate and unconditional release on behalf of social work core values, and of the thousands of social workers worldwide who are committed to end injustice, oppression and the violation of human rights.

On 7 January, the IFSW issued a statement demanding Amira’s release. This statement has been echoed by several national social work associations in Britain, New Zealand, Palestine, Turkey, the Latin America region and Ireland.

The international campaign to free Amira is growing rapidly. The petition has been signed by more than 13,000 social workers and supporters worldwide and has been sent to the prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu. On 15 January, the IFSW also sent letters to relevant agencies at the United Nations, urging them to use their respected offices to support the global movement of social workers and human rights defenders, like Amnesty International.


Amira has had six court hearings since his arrest, and the Israeli military prosecution has extended his detention several times. His trial began on 21 February, and he is being indicted with 13 charges for participating in five separate rallies/protests, such as “participating in a march without a permit” and “throwing stones at Israeli forces”. The military court system in the West Bank has a 99% conviction rate towards Palestinians.

Social workers worldwide must continue to raise awareness about Munther Amira and stand in solidarity with all social workers who protect and defend the rights of children and refugees on a daily basis. Social workers are human rights defenders, they believe in peace and social justice.


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The General Delegation of the Palestine Liberation Organization to the U.S. is the official representative of the PLO in the United States.

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