A crowd of curious passers-by gathered around the neat pile of keffiyeh scarves displayed on the entrance stairs of the Polak building. Wednesday afternoon, the library became the hotspot for students who wished to show their support towards Palestinians. The display was organized by the Studenten voor Rechtvaardigheid in Palestina (SRP) association, which operates in several student cities all over the Netherlands.

‘A symbol of Palestinian resistance’

Mohammed Akkari (23) is one the active SRP members who was present at the keffiyeh selling point in the Polak building. “These keffiyeh were made in the last keffiyeh factory in Ebron, they are directly imported from there. By selling them we are trying to support the factory, so it won’t close.” Mohammed explains that all of the other keffiyeh factories were shut down. “We want to keep the factory alive. The keffiyeh became a symbol of Palestine resistance.

Keffiyeh people
Mohammed Akkari and Sulayman

To whom identifies the keffiyeh as ‘Arafat’s scarf’ Mohammed replied “Honestly, I see why they call it like that. The keffieyh firstly became known to the Western world when Arafat wore on a TV occasion. It is actually part of the traditional clothing of several countries in the Middle Eastern region. This just shows the ill information that is spread among Westerners on the matter.”

The gathering is also a way to spread awareness among students about the infringement of Palestinians’ human rights in the areas of the West bank and Gaza. “Students and Westerners, in general, are ill-informed.” argues Mohammed “I don’t want to point fingers, but the media are often times dishonest with the public. They offer a distraction from what is actually happening.”

'Spontaneous action'

A photo of the statue of Erasmus embellished with a keffiyeh was posted on the SRP Facebook page in the early afternoon. “It was a totally spontaneous act.” confesses Mohammed. “We just wanted to take a photo with it. Few employees of the communication department stopped by while we were doing it, they said we couldn’t. Though there was no real problem and we received no further complaint.”

Eramus Keffiyeh
Courtesy of SRP Rotterdam Facebook page

Mohammed declared himself to be proud to be an Erasmus student and that dressing up Erasmus with a keffiyeh was supposed to send a message. “We are proud students of this university and we are aware of injustices. We strive for justice.”

Mohamed declared to be hopeful for a better future. “I certainly have hope. I know Dutch people are kind hearted and if they would know more about the conflict I am sure they would stand on the Palestinian side.”