The UK Is Preventing My Student from Attending Her Graduation

by Kevin Jon Heller

I opened Facebook just now to find the following post from my brilliant student at SOAS, Tamara Tamimi, whose MA dissertation — written under my supervision — received the law school’s award for the best MA dissertation of the year:

I am angry, frustrated and sad. I was denied entry clearance into the UK to attend my graduation from SOAS University of London. I finished my MA in Human Rights Law from SOAS, University of London ten months ago and returned to my homeland, Palestine. I decided to go through the trouble and expenses to attend my graduation for a number of reasons, including this burning desire to share the moment with my family and friends especially after I received the Sarah Spells Award by the SOAS School of Law for the best MA dissertation of the academic year. 

What was most exciting for me was that I was going to be standing on Thursday with the people I called family for a whole year and receiving my graduation certificate and celebrate the acknowledgment of the one hell of a work that bore fruits from the tediously long hours that I spent in the SOAS Library and UCL Main Library.

During the past couple of months I excitedly texted and talked to London friends and made plans for the five days my family and I were planning to spend in London. There were many things to be done: so many people to reconnect with in SOAS and the house I called home for a year and so many places to go to and take my family. I was getting more and more excited as my friends shared their plans: Amira and Giorgios were going to recreate another hellish night of cards against humanity at the ILSC and Scott was yet again hosting one of his crazy celebration milestone parties.

But the UK was “not satisfied” that I am “genuinely seeking entry for a purpose that is permitted by the visitor routes” and denied me entry clearance that would enable me to attend my own graduation, despite giving me two years ago a Chevening Scholarship to undertake my MA studies in SOAS. In doing so they are preventing me from spending time and celebrating my achievement with my family and friends. 

My graduation ceremony is Thursday the 27th… I will fight this injustice until the very end… fight with me and demand the UK to reverse this decision to deny me a visa to attend my own graduation by sharing my posts, writing to your MPs and mobilising the media… anything that you do will count.

This is appalling and unacceptable, but not surprising. Having ensured its increasing irrelevance on the world stage through the self-inflicted wound of Brexit, the UK is desperate to maintain good relations with any state that will trade with it, no matter how authoritarian or vicious — Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the Philippines, Egypt, China… and, of course, Israel.

The UK can take away Tamara’s ability to attend her graduation. But they cannot take away her intelligence and passion. It was my honour to supervise her thesis, and SOAS was fortunate to have her as a student.

17 Responses

  1. Outrageous!!!

  2. Borrowing from Sinclair Lewis’ It can’t happen here, the world struggle today is becoming less about liberalism against radicalism, and more about tolerance against the bigotry.

  3. Israel is neither authoritarian nor vicious. In fact, it is a vibrant democracy which tolerates members of its parliament who would not be tolerated in any other country due to their constant incitement of violence.

    Apparently the UK was worried that Tamimi, who identifies with a vicious, authoritarian entity (the PA) would pose a security risk. .

  4. Avraham Keslinger
    Israel may (or may not) be ‘a vibrant democracy’ [sic] for its colonialist settlers, but it certainly isn’t a vibrant democracy for the Palestinians who have seen (and continue to see) their land stolen and other rights abused since the late 1940s.

    Professor Heller
    I understand that it is quite late given that the graduation ceremony is on the 27th, but could a letter to the Home Office/Home Secretary help?

  5. @Avraham Keslinger Entirely agree. Islamist terrorists (Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad) will never find Israel to be a democracy where they can carry out their activities.

  6. Ali,

    Thanks, that’s being done. Just business as usual for the Tories, unfortunately — harassing anyone who would rather promote nonviolent progressive change in Israel instead of enabling its incessant crimes against Palestinians.

  7. So if I understand your grievance, you claim, indirectly, that the UK is denying your student entry because it would like to “maintain good relations with … Israel”. Any evidence for that? I’ll set aside for the moment the question whether anyone in Israel cares at all.

  8. Apparently the UK is no longer worried that Tamimi poses a security risk, despite her critical stance on the the vicious, authoritarian government that currently controls Israel.

  9. You are so obsessed with Israel that you see a plot everywhere. Your statement that the UK took that decision in the first place because your student expressed strong stances against Israel is absolutely absurd and to some extent hilarious. Really, that made my day!

  10. ParisianIL,

    By all means, please share with us your non-absurd and non-hilarious explanation.

  11. I am sorry Pr. Heller, but as an international criminal law specialist, you should be aware that you have the burden of proof of your allegations. And I will be happy to acknowledge that my message was inappropriate should I eventually find your evidence convincing.

  12. Translation: I have no idea why your student was initially denied a visa, I just know it’s absurd and hilarious to suggest that being Palestinian might have had something to do with a Palestinian student being denied a visa.

  13. You said in the first place that the visa could have been denied because of her strong stances against Israel, now it it just because of her nationality. Not the same thing and it is a misrepresentation of my position + you are suggesting that I was making fun of her difficult situation. I was just making fun of an unproven statement linking the denial with an intellectual position (expressed in a Master thesis ? on Twitter ?).

    The fact that the denial was linked to her nationality is in my view highly probable. While reading the news, it seems that UK authorities have now very stringent standards when it comes to granting student visa. See for instance the following link showing that some students from Nigeria, Pakistan and India went through the same unpleasant experience and the UK intends to limit visas for those countries ( The UK has implemented harsher policies against immigrants (workers or students) coming from developing countries, reflecting the mood of the majority of the UK populations (also against workers from Easter EU countries). The is an unpleasant reality that truly explains in my view the treatment that you student received.

  14. That is a quite plausible explanation. I will simply note that nothing in my original post suggested that the visa was denied because Tamara was critical of Israel; I attributed it to the UK’s general desire to placate Israel, a state notorious for trying to limit the ability of to Palestinian students to obtain educations outside of Palestine. If I suggested in my comments to the post that the denial was related specifically to my student’s views concerning Israel, I was being sloppy.

  15. Perhaps we do not agree on everything but through discussion we have probably made our positions closer.
    Have a good week-end,

  16. “Just business as usual for the Tories, unfortunately — harassing anyone who would rather promote nonviolent progressive change in Israel instead of enabling its incessant crimes against Palestinians.” The Professor, I am sure is referring to the Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the other factions who are striving to carry out jihad through “non-violent” means.

    I agree with ParisianIL’s comments.

  17. As always, I appreciate Kumar’s intelligent, well-reasoned contribution to the discussion.

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