Statement by AUB Faculty at large: We call for immediate and transparent investigation into assault on Roland Nassour

In a statement issued by the American University of Beirut Faculty at large, it said: “On Sunday June 9th, AUB graduate student Roland Nassour was assaulted during a tour he organizes weekly to raise awareness about the archeological sites against the Bisri dam project. As faculty members, students, and staff at the American University of Beirut, we stand in strong solidarity with our friend, colleague and student. We call on the Lebanese authorities to take immediate measures to investigate and hold his assailants accountable, extending protection for all those who continue to make the commendable choice of acting as involved and engaged citizens.

Roland is the coordinator of the “Save the Bisri Valley” campaign, a group of activists composed of professionals and active citizens opposing the construction of the World Bank funded Bisri dam project underway in southern Lebanon, arguing it imposes considerable ecological, cultural and social costs on the country.

At the time of the Sunday attack, Roland was guiding a group of citizens in the Bisri valley on a tour of the site’s historical and archeological heritage. He was suddenly charged and violently assaulted. Roland had to be rushed to the hospital covered in blood and will now have to endure serious physical and mental damage from this attack. This attack is one of a series of incidents in which intimidation and threats were made against AUB students and faculty members in reaction to their opposition to the construction of the dam. This incident is part of a wider context in which activists are continuing to undergo intimidation and personal threats for peacefully expressing their positions.

As faculty members, students and staff at AUB, we firmly stand by the right of all individuals, especially our students, to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly as enshrined in Article 13 of the Lebanese Constitution. We proudly wish to continue a history of 150 years of empowering active citizens, pioneers, and leaders in numerous fields. We encourage and seek protection for all individuals who peacefully struggle to stand up for what they believe in. We refuse to be intimidated and to have our students intimidated for choosing to perform their duties as conscientious citizens. We strongly condemn the attack on Roland and stand firmly behind him. Violence in the face of expressing one’s view is a form of tyranny and repression.

In light of our commitments above, we call for an immediate and transparent investigation into the assault on our student and colleague on Sunday June 9th. We believe it is absolutely crucial to hold all those who deliberately attacked Roland accountable for this crime. We demand that the Minister of Interior and Municipalities, HE Rayya El Hassan, launch an immediate investigation of this and other events of intimidation and violence taking place against activists expressing their beliefs on national policies and projects that they deem harmful. It is these active citizens that may help Lebanon overcome its disastrous environmental and ecological situation.

We ask that you join us in your thoughts and prayers as we wish Roland a speedy recovery. We will also update the public with proceedings about the anticipated investigation into this incident.”

Source: National News Agency