Student protesters at the Gaza peace encampment at the University of Sydney say they will stay for “as long as it takes” to shame the university into taking action.

The camp, one of several on Australian university campuses, was set up in front of the uni Quad on April 13 with students primarily from USYD, but joined by other universities including UTS, to protest the ongoing war in Gaza and the university’s affiliation with weapons company Thales.

Despite a mainstream media campaign against the encampment, branding it anti-semitic, it has has seen widespread community support, with touring American rapper Macklemore even visiting to show his support.

Central News spoke to many of the students attending the encampment to get a feel for the atmosphere.

Marley Liyanagama, 25, a Sydney Uni Bachelor of Arts student who was at the encampment on behalf of the Political Economy Society, said members were rotating turns at the camp so there was always someone present.

“Everyones gotta work, we’ve still going to class,” he said. “We’ve got a group of us here so we’ve been taking it in turns.

“You can’t give up your job, you can’t give up your study completely if we want to keep doing this for as long as it takes to keep the pressure on.”

We totally condemn everything about our university and the fact that they would rather make millions of dollars of profit than actually have a university about human rights and justice in the world.

Organisers said community members and local businesses in the Camperdown/Newtown area were providing them with food and other means of support.

Grace, a 21-year-old Sydney Uni arts student, studying political economy, said students plan to confront university management more.

“The next step we are taking to being more visible, a bit more disruptive, and really showing the universities that we’re as serious as ever,” she said.

Jasmine Al-Rawi, 21, who is studying architecture and environments at Sydney Uni and has been at the encampment for over three weeks, said the university’s weapons links were the main reason she was protesting.

“The university has this memorandum of understanding with Thales, the weapons company, which basically means that Thales is allowed to get research out of certain faculties, that most likely come out of engineering students,” she said.

“The university is really hypocritical when they have slogans such as ‘Leadership for Good’ when that leadership actually looks like making bombs that are used on Palestinian children.

“We totally condemn everything about our university and the fact that they would rather make millions of dollars of profit than actually have a university about human rights and justice in the world.”

Protester at USYD Encampment

Marley Liyanagama, 25, at the USYD Encampment on behalf of the Political Economy Society. Image taken by Bethany Alvaro


Another camper Hossian, 23, from the Sydney Uni Muslim Student Association, praised the level of community support over past weeks.

“We wouldn’t be here without the community support,” he said. “Everything you see around in these camps was provided by funds from the community. Dietary we’ve been looked after. Mentally we’ve been looked after as well.

“We get lunch provided by members of the community who come down and give us fresh food. Sometimes we have an external speaker who comes down and gives us motivation,” he added.


The encampment displays an abundance of signage, banners, and posters. Image taken by Bethany Alvaro


Hossain praised universities as being at the forefront for students and young people to express their thoughts and opinions openly and without fear of suppression.

“There have been multiple times where students have risen to the occasion when they’ve seen injustice, look at the South Africa apartheid system, the Vietnam war,” he said.

“There’s been multiple instances where students have taken [on] the government and society in general and have challenged their notions.”

Protesters at Sydney and other universities have been attacked by both politicians and the media, with Opposition Leader Peter Dutton comparing the ‘from the river to the sea’ chant used at encampments to ‘Hitler’ chants.



“How they distinguish a comment like ‘river to the sea’ from what Hitler chanted in the 1930s. This is about elimination, annihilation, extermination of the race of people of the Jewish faith, it’s as simple as that,” Dutton said on 2GB last week.

Rand, a Sydney Uni philosophy student, claimed Dutton’s comments were deliberately designed to obscure the point of the protest.

The moral clarity is that we’ve had Jewish diaspora groups come and support us.

“It’s a complete distraction from what we’re really here about,” she said. “There are Jewish people a part of this encampment, this has nothing to do with Judaism, this has only to do with Zionism and the settler colonial project, and holding our own university to account under international law.

“Are you saying international law is anti-semitic?”

“I think the question needs to be thrown back on these figures, because ultimately it is anti-semitic to say Jewish people are supportive of genocide. The moral clarity is that we’ve had Jewish diaspora groups come and support us.”


Grace (21) and Rand at the USYD Gaza encampment. Image taken by Bethany Alvaro


Criticism has also come from counter protesters against the encampment, culminating in a rally of about 150 people three weeks ago, although it involved mostly non-students. There have also been smaller instances of counter-action before and after the rally.

“When you wake up in the night to see more Zionists have come overnight deliberately trying to wake you up and scare you, it is quite uncomfortable,” Grace said.

“It’s disgraceful that they’re weaponising anti-semitism in an attempt to silence us or get us shutdown. Using anti-semitism in this way is really shameful and something we’re strongly against here.”

Many students said the fact this method of protest was uncomfortable to counter protesters, showed it was the strongest way to get their point across.



“This doesn’t need to happen. I don’t like being here, no one does,” said Hossain. “The reason we’re here is pretty clear. The University of Sydney as an educational institution is funding a genocide.

“They are paying weapons manufacturers for the oppression of the Palestinians. We just want that to stop.”

Last week the Students For Palestine Sydney Uni Instagram page, which has over 14,000 followers, issued an open letter to the university calling for a meeting to “discuss our demands”.

While the University of Melbourne has threatened protest campers with expulsion, Sydney Uni’s Vice-Chancellor Mark Scott has so far defended the right of students to protest and said the police won’t be called in.

Many university protests in the US have erupted in violence as police have been called in by universities to forcibly remove student camps. Over 2,000 students have been arrested there in the biggest campus protests since the Vietnam War sit-ins of the 1960s.

“As the camp is expanding, it becomes a continually energised protest,” said Liyanagama, about the Sydney Uni protest. “We’re still looking for other ways, this is just another aspect of a much larger campaign.”

Additional reporting by Jess O’Bryan

Main image by Bethany Alvaro.