UNRWA Teachers Union Rally for Accused Hamas Teachers

The second day of the strike to protest the agency’s actions against its employees

Anger in the Palestinian camps in Lebanon and the Teachers Union rejects UNRWA’s justifications

(Reuters reports that Fateh Sharif is accused of ties to the Hamas terrorist group)

Palestinian Refugees Portal
Tuesday, March 26, 2024

On Tuesday, March 26, Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon witnessed a comprehensive closure of schools and facilities of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), as part of the activities of the second day of escalation in protest against the agency’s punitive measures against teachers Fatah Sharif and Raif Al-Ahmad, due to their national activities, amid escalating controversy.

Between the UNRWA administration and the agency’s teachers’ union, which expressed its rejection of the administration’s justifications, and anger escalated against the director, Dorothy Klaus.

The general closure included all UNRWA schools, offices, and institutions, in addition to student movements and marches in some camps, as part of the second day of the strike activities announced by the Palestinian factions, Islamic forces, unions, and civil institutions in the camps.

The people of Nahr al-Bared camp closed the agency’s schools and offices in the camp, and the protesters pasted posters bearing the pictures of teachers Fatah Sharif and Raif al-Ahmad, denouncing the measures taken by the agency’s administration against them.

The camp residents also expressed their anger towards the director of UNRWA affairs in Lebanon, Dorothy Klaus, and the student forces launched an electronic campaign demanding her expulsion from Lebanon.

The general closure affected UNRWA schools and facilities, including the Beddawi camp in Tripoli, as well as the camps in the capital, Beirut, as far as the Lebanese Bekaa regions, reaching the schools of the Ain al-Hilweh and Mieh Mieh camps in Sidon, and the schools of the city of Tire in the south, where the Rashidiya camp witnessed a student protest denouncing UNRWA’s measures. As well as the Galilee camp in the Bekaa, where the protesters expressed their anger towards Director “Klaus” and described her as “an unwanted person,” as they put it.

A statement delivered during a sit-in at UNRWA headquarters in the Galilee camp in the Baalbek region said: “The Director General of the agency in Lebanon and her incitement against employees places herself in hostility to our Palestinian people. We consider her an undesirable person, and we demand her dismissal and her change.”

The protesters in all the camps stressed that the issue of teachers Sharif and Raif Al-Ahmad is not a personal issue, but rather a political issue targeting UNRWA employees and refugees in the five regions and targeting their Palestinian national affiliation. They stressed the Palestinian refugees’ adherence to UNRWA as the international witness to their asylum.

UNRWA clarifies and the Teachers Union refuses

The management of UNRWA in Lebanon issued a statement, in which it stressed the need for “all agency employees to adhere to the agency’s policies, laws and regulations, and this is essential to ensure its ability to serve Palestine refugees throughout the region, including Lebanon.”

She indicated that any allegation of a possible violation will be dealt with in accordance with established procedures, regardless of the person’s job, rank, or background, “as a standard practice.”

UNRWA explained that the Commissioner-General decided to place one of the agency’s employees in Lebanon on administrative leave without pay for a period of three months, pending an investigation conducted by the Internal Oversight Services Department at UNRWA, “in an action against the backdrop of reports about alleged activities carried out by the employee that violate “The agency’s regulatory framework that governs the conduct of employees,” according to its statement, noting that “given the confidentiality of the investigation process, UNRWA cannot provide any further details.”

UNRWA said: “UNRWA employees are not required to abandon their national feelings or political or religious convictions, and the agency recognizes the right of its employees to express their personal opinions and convictions.”

However, she pointed out that “by accepting appointment as UNRWA employees, the agency’s employees pledge to perform their functions and regulate their conduct in accordance with the principles and policies of the United Nations.”

She added, “Humanitarian support to civilians in Gaza and expressions of sympathy for human suffering in general do not constitute a violation of UNRWA’s organizational framework, but participation in any political activity by employees must be consistent with the integrity and reputation of the agency, including its principles of work, and must not reflect negatively on it,” she said.

UNRWA expressed its commitment to providing services, despite calls to close its offices, and pointed to the difficult challenges it faces, as UNRWA needs more than 40% of its planned budget for the year 2024, “as it prepares in the coming days to distribute cash aid to Palestine refugees.” Most in need in Lebanon.

For its part, the Agency’s Teachers Union considered, in a statement issued by it, that this aforementioned reason mentioned in the statement is inaccurate and lacks objectivity and credibility, because the letter addressed to Professor Fateh Sharif, according to which he was suspended for three months without payment of salary, was at the forefront of “political affiliation,” as he put it.

The Union referred to the literal text that came in the letter, “that he was suspended based on his political affiliation in addition to the reasons mentioned.”

The Union wondered, astonished, about the legal right under which UNRWA formed a committee to investigate this case, and convened it directly after its formation, then examined the background of the case and the allegations made, then issued effective decisions, and put them into practice, and all of this in one day!

The Union stressed that UNRWA’s procedure is not a normal administrative procedure, and asked, “Then by what right and on what basis do you deprive an employee of his salary for three consecutive months? Doesn’t this indicate a procedure that lacks the lowest principles of moral and human sense?”

This comes in light of the ongoing interactions regarding the issue of the agency’s punitive measures against the head of the agency’s workers’ union, the director of Deir Yassin Fateh al-Sharif High School, and the teacher Raif Ahmed, who holds the position of vice president.

It suspended Sharif for 3 months without pay, and referred him for investigation, on the grounds of organizing a donation campaign for relief for the people of the Gaza Strip, which the agency considered a “violation of neutrality,” and asked him to hand over everything related to his work in the agency that he was responsible for, and prevented him from entering UNRWA facilities.

The protest movements are scheduled to continue, as tomorrow, Wednesday, will witness an escalation represented by the continuation of the strike, the closure of schools, district offices, and camps, and the march towards the main UNRWA office in Beirut and closing it, and inviting students, families, teachers, and events to participate in this.


UN Watch