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Disability under Siege

“Disability Under Siege” is a multidisciplinary project running from 2020 to 2024 and which seeks to transform the education provision for children with disabilities in conflict affected states, specifically Palestine (Gaza and West Bank), Lebanon, and Jordan


A voice for theatre and culture in Palestine - in person event

Monday 1st July (4-5pm), University of Birmingham Guest speaker: Marina Barham, General Director, Al Harah Theater in Bethlehem Marina will be speaking about the role of theatre in helping children, young people and the community living in the midst of war, and their work to involve people with disabilities in the performing arts. This in-person event is open to the public, staff and student and will be a safe and respectful space for all in attendance, regardless of background and to pose appropriate questions. Registration is essential to receive further details and location of the event.
The longest nightmare in the life of every Gazan – Ghada’s story
Ghada Zomlot is a person with visual impairment, a journalist, and a community activist in the disability sector. On September 27, 2023, she left Gaza to participate in a regional conference in Tunisia. During her return to Gaza via Egypt, she was forced to stay in Cairo due to the closure of the Rafah border crossing and the inability to reach Jabalia camp in the northern Gaza Strip, where her family lives. Ghada shared with us her experience as a woman with disabilities on Monday, February 26, 2024.
(In Arabic, with English subtitles)

Shaima’s Story

Shaima is a 39-year-old Palestinian young woman with partial visual impairment. She is a special education teacher in the Gaza Strip. Shaima needs retinal surgery after she completely lost her sight as a result of the bombing on her home. Shaima shared her story with us on March 1, 2024

(In Arabic, with English subtitles)
What does it mean to be ‘displaced’ in UNRWA schools?
On the morning of November 2, Israeli airstrikes targeted one of UNRWA schools in the Beach refugee camp in Gaza City, just before the release of this video.
(In Arabic, with English subtitles)
Hanadi, a true story of a Palestinian young woman with a disability living in Gaza Strip, describing her experience with forced displacement as a woman with visual impairment under the continuous Israeli airstrikes on Gaza. The events and all the details in this story are true, Hanadi experienced it with her family and 3 brothers, who also have multiple disabilities. She shared it with us on October 23, 2023 
(In Arabic, with English subtitles)
Naheels’ Story
Naheel, a young woman with a motor disability living in the Gaza Strip, told a Palestinian disability activist living in the same area her story of forced displacement which took place on the 18th of October, 2023
(In Arabic, with English subtitles)

Shireen is a visually impaired 37 year old woman living in the Gaza Strip. She is a journalist and part of a disability activist group working on the impact the war in Gaza is having on persons with disability.

(In Arabic, with English subtitles)

Imad, a visually impaired student living in Ramallah from the #disabledvoicesfromgaza project relates his experiences of the war in Gaza
(In English, with Arabic subtitles)
Hiba, a visually and hearing impaired student living in Gaza from the #disabledvoicesfromgaza project.
(In English, with Arabic subtitles)

Project Overview

The project is a Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) Network Plus, aiming to build equitable partnerships between the Global South and the Global North, and encourage collaborations between universities, NGOs, educators, artists, and grassroots activists, in particular people with disabilities.

As part of the Network, we will be funding a range of Innovation projects. These projects will aim to change the discourse around disability, removing barriers, and improving access to education for children with disabilities, while promoting collaboration between partners in the MENA region and UK organisations. There will also be a strong focus on arts and culture as a way of increasing representation and changing the perception of disability in the region.

News and Engagement

Rapid Review of the Graduate Route

Professor Dina Kiwan, Principal Investigator on the Disability under Siege Network and member of the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), has recently published the findings of the government-commissioned "Rapid review of the graduate route. Their findings have been published online and can be accessed via the link below.

University of Birmingham academic elected Academy of Social Sciences Fellow

Professor Dina Kiwan, Principal Investigator on the Disability under Siege Network, has been elected alongside 37 of their colleagues from institutions across the globe, as recognition for their substantial contributions to social science.

Our Project partner Dr Iain Overton from Action on Armed Violence talks about the Disability Under Siege-funded “Disabled Voices from Gaza” project and the impact of war on people with disabilities in Gaza.

Research project & art exhibition seeks to remove stigma of young people with disabilities in Jordan

‘The Though Our Eyes’ project, which is part of the wider Disability Under Siege Network programme, saw six disabled young people in Jordan provided with cameras to photograph and document their everyday lived experiences. These photos will now be made available for the public to view, getting a glimpse into lives and experience which are normally hidden and removed from public discourse.

Arab youth must be harnessed in climate change fight, by Professor Dina Kiwan

With its hot, dry climate and scarce water resources, the Middle East region is on the front line of the global climate emergency. And for youth in the region, who are inheriting unprecedented climate challenges, there is a critical and urgent need for governments to take immediate and effective action.

University of Birmingham-led project commissions exciting disability research in the Middle East

The Disability under Siege Network recently funded two large research projects and five small knowledge exchange projects in Lebanon, Palestine, and Jordan. The projects, funded through open calls, will receive a total of £400,000. They will focus on inclusive education, access to arts and culture for people with disabilities, and challenging wider perceptions of disability. All projects are led by organisations in the Middle East.

A letter to friends and colleagues; "What needs to be known, remembered, and acted upon."

Rita Giacaman, co-investigator for the Disability under Siege project, writes from Ramallah, West Bank, occupied Palestinian territory, about the latest Israeli attack on Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.

Lords Committee requests urgent review of the Life in the UK Test

In response to Professor Dina Kiwan's recommendations for the Citizenship Life in the UK test, the Lords Committee have published their findings in an open letter letter to Home Office Minister, Kevin Foster MP, stressing the need for the Government to begin immediately a review of the Life in the UK Test. Professor Dina Kiwan, Principal Investigator for the Disability Under Siege project, has been appointed as a member of the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) for 3 years from 1 May 2021.

Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize 2021

We are excited to announce that Ruth Gilligan, Co-Investigator, Disability under Siege Network, has won the 2021 RSL Ondaatje Prize with The Butchers (Atlantic Books). The annual Prize of £10,000 is awarded for a distinguished work of fiction, non-fiction or poetry, evoking the spirit of a place.

Deep education reforms needed to get youth more engaged in climate action

Education reforms are needed globally if societies are to harness the full energy and creativity that young people can bring to the climate challenge. That is according to a panel of leading education and environment experts speaking at Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week (ADSW), with Professor Dina Kiwan, Disability under Siege Network.

Disability Under Siege: decolonising knowledge on disability in contexts of conflict and crisis by Professor Dina Kiwan

Did you know that 15% of the world’s population – 1 billion people – experience some form of disability? The prevalence of disability is even higher in lower- and middle-income countries, exacerbated by poverty and conflict (World Bank, 2018). Not only is disability higher in these countries, and its effects exacerbated by the socio-political conditions, infrastructure and attitudes to disability, but disability also arises as a direct result of conflict and armed violence.


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September 2023
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December 2022
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August 2022
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December 2021
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May 2021
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December 2020


Academic Freedom and the Transnational Production of Knowledge

Professor Dina Kiwan, principal investigator of the Disability under Siege Network + project, University of Birmingham, has recently published a book on Academic Freedom which examines the understudied relationship between academic freedom and its role in knowledge production across four country contexts - Lebanon, the UAE, the UK and the US - through the lived experiences of academics conducting 'controversial' research.

Language & Intercultural Communication

Our Co-investigator, Nazmi Al-Masri has published several articles in the Language and Intercultural Communication Journal. Nazmi has worked with colleagues at the Islamic University of Gaza and University of Glasgow to produce articles on the following; 1. Socio-cultural semiotic analysis of Palestinian films on gender-based violence 2. Capacity-building training to develop short story writing skills, social values, and gender fairness at the IUG, Palestine: a case study 3. Welcoming Languages: teaching a ‘refugee language’ to school staff to enact the principle of integration as a two-way process

Accessible and Inclusive Higher Education for Palestinian Students with Disability: Policies and Practices Review

One of Disability under Siege’s co-investigator’s, Professor Nazmi Al Masri, together with colleagues Alaa Aladini and Nesma Alghoula, Islamic University of Gaza, has published an incredible 5 papers recently. After 2 weeks of communications blackout in Gaza, he has shared them to further our aim of accessible and inclusive education for all.

Development of online teaching expertise in fragile and conflict-affected contexts

What we know about the development of online teaching expertise during the COVID-19 pandemic is scarce. Current research has concentrated primarily on the obstacles encountered by university teachers, leaving a significant gap in our understanding of the strategies they employ not only to survive but to flourish in online teaching.

“Vulnerable” or Systematically Excluded? The Impact of Covid-19 on Disabled People in Low- and Middle-Income Countries

The Covid-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected disabled people across the globe. This review article maps the impact of the pandemic on disabled people in low- and middle-income countries (LMICS) during the first ten months of the pandemic, based on a semi-systematic review of 113 articles of empirical and “grey” literature.

Dis/abled decolonial human and citizen futures

Our Principal Investigator, Professor Dina Kiwan has recently published an article in the journal, Citizenship Studies. The article utilises the dual methodological lens of disability and decolonisation in order to critically examine, in interdisciplinary and global perspective, what it will mean to be both a ‘human’ and a ‘citizen’ in the 21st century.

The Limitations of Deinstitutionalization: The Case of the Israeli-Occupied Palestinian West Bank

Professor Rita Giacaman, co-investigator on the De-Institutionalisation under Siege project has published an essay examining the concept and limitations of deinstitutionalization as a principle and practice derived from Western paradigms, and how it has been problematically implemented in non-Western settings, ­including the Israeli-occupied West Bank. It begins by reviewing the international literature on deinstitutionalization of people with mental health illnesses/disabilities.

The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), annual report

Professor Dina Kiwan has been appointed to sit on The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC). The MAC is an independent, non-statutory, non-time limited, non-departmental public body that advises the government on migration issues. The sponsoring department is the Home Office and has a UK wide remit and works across government, providing transparent, independent and evidence-based advice.

Covid-19 Research

Education for disabled children in the Global South during COVID-19: An afterthought?

To mark International Day of Education, Vera Kubenz wrote a blog looking at The impact of the pandemic on disabled children in the Global South.

The impact of COVID-19 on Persons with Disabilities in Lebanon, Palestine, and Jordan

In 2021 researchers from the Disability Under Siege Network in Lebanon, Jordan, and the occupied Palestinian territories investigated the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on persons with disabilities living in those countries.

How pandemic responses neglected disabled people’s rights

Research Fellow for the Disability under Siege project, Vera Kubenz, writes for The Conversation on "How pandemic responses neglected disabled people's rights."

Disabled people are being left out of COVID recovery. Here are five ways to change that

After two years of the pandemic, there is an understandable desire to “go back to normal”. Disabled people, having been particularly impacted by the pandemic, have described the removal of all COVID rules as a “kick in the teeth”. Read Vera Kubenz's recent article in The Conversation

All in!

The global recovery from Covid-19 must be disability-inclusive. It is time for the left to work with disabled people, putting us at the heart of their plans, writes Vera Kubenz, research fellow, Disability under Siege project. Read the full article on the Fabian Society website.

What can the COVID-19 pandemic teach us about disability justice?

The event explored the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on disabled people, who have been deprioritised in pandemic planning around the world, facing discrimination in healthcare, exclusion from education and employment, and neglect, abuse, and violence both in care and in the community. The event explored how the lived experience of disabled people can inform activism and politics to make the world a fairer and more accessible place for all.


Introduction to the Disability under Siege Network by Professor Dina Kiwan

Decolonising knowledge on disability in contexts of conflict and crisis lecture, Professor Dina Kiwan

Challenges to inclusive education lecture by Dr Nazmi Al-Masri, Islamic University of Gaza

Challenges to inclusive education lecture by Dr Nazmi Al-Masri, Islamic University of Gaza

Life Cycle and the story of inclusive design, Centre for Lebanese Studies

All means All! How to support inclusive education and learning during times of crisis, CLS

Innovative methods for researching disability workshop. Introduction by Vera Kubenz, University of Birmingham

Innovative methods for researching disability workshop. Keynote speaker Ola Abu Alghaib (UNPRPD)

The impact of Covid-19 on persons with disabilities in Lebanon, Palestine & Jordan

Analytical framework for a disability-inclusive from Covid-19, by Vera Kubenz