Thursday, April 18, 2024

Gaza war surgeon Ghassan Abu-Sittah elected rector at University of Glasgow

British-Palestinian war surgeon Dr Ghassan Abu-Sittah was elected rector of the University of Glasgow on Tuesday.

Abu-Sittah, a world-leading plastic and reconstructive surgeon, is a former student of the university and has recently spent time operating on Palestinians in the besieged Gaza Strip during Israel’s ongoing genocidal onslaught.

Dr Abu-Sittah, who raised the slogan “a vote for me is a vote of solidarity” received 80% votes, as he urged for divestment from the arms trade throughout his campaign.

He said that while he was a student at the same institute, the university’s rector was Winnie Mandela, wife of anti-apartheid activist and former South African president, Nelson Mandela.

“Glasgow University took a principled stand then, and I think for this new generation Palestine is the anti-apartheid struggle,” he said.

During the same time, the university had also set up scholarships for the survivors of the 1982 Sabra and Shatila massacres, when a Christian-Zionist militia killed hundreds in two adjoining refugee camps in southern Lebanon, with the support of Israeli troops.

Abu Sittah was born in Kuwait to Palestinian parents who were forced to leave their land during Nakba in 1948. His career as a surgeon was devoted to the cause of providing relief to the victims of several wars that have taken place in Gaza for the past decades.

He has also worked in Iraq, Yemen, Syria, and Lebanon. In Beirut, he set up a cleft care programme for refugee children.

Abu Sittah, who worked at both al-Shifa and al-Ahli hospitals, did not hesitate to tell the world constantly that Gaza’s medical infrastructure had been targeted repeatedly by Israeli forces during its bombardment of the territory.

“We saw the Israelis target solar panels on top of hospitals, buildings and even patients,” he told the Middle East Eye in a recent interview.

For him, the current phase he served in Gaza has been one of the most difficult times of his life.

At times, they didn’t have enough supplies to perform surgery. “If you can’t operate on the wounded, then you just bandage them up and put them in the corner and hope for the best,” he said.

The university rector, a position held for three-years, presides at meetings of the University Court — the highest governing body of the university. The court exists to oversee the management of the University, with special emphasis on strategic leadership and accountability.

As analysts view, Abu-Sittah in the role of rector will be instrumental for the strengthening of pro-Palestine advocacy in the public sphere.

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