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UAE deported student who wore Palestinian keffiyeh at graduation ceremony

NYU Abu Dhabi reportedly banned wearing of 'cultural attire' at graduation ceremony in May
The NYU Abu Dhabi campus (Flickr/Yuwen Memon)

The UAE has deported a student who wore the Palestinian keffiyeh and shouted "Free Palestine" at a graduation ceremony at Abu Dhabi's New York University campus in May.

According to Associated Press, the student - who has not been identified - was taken into police custody and then deported just days after the incident.

Students at the university told the news agency that prior to the ceremony they had been warned that "displaying the Palestinian flag anywhere on campus is not permitted", while an email was sent banning "cultural attire" at the graduation.

Since 2020, when the UAE normalised relations with Israel, the Gulf state has struggled to balance popular support for the Palestinian people with support for its new diplomatic partner and ally.

Palestinian politicians condemned the UAE and other countries for establishing ties with Israel, accusing them of breaking a long-standing Arab position of rejecting normalisation until a Palestinian state was formed. 

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Unlike neighbouring Gulf states, the UAE has seen little or nothing in the way of mass demonstrations in support of Gaza, which has endured Israeli bombardments since October 2023.

NYU Abu Dhabi told AP that while it had been “guaranteed academic authority” on campus, “in none of our locations ... are members of the NYU community immune from local law.

"NYU has no authority over any nation’s immigration or law enforcement actions or decisions," it said.

The UAE government tightly controls dissent and political parties are banned in the country.

Rights groups have accused the authorities of arbitrary detention of both its citizens and foreign nationals.

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