Palestinian young people’s perspectives and experiences of human rights, inside and outside schools
: A participatory qualitative study in the occupied West Bank

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


In the occupied West Bank, Palestinian young people learn about human rights through human rights education (HRE) whether they attend a private, UNRWA or government school. Nonetheless, young people and their teachers are aware that the largely Eurocentric and decontextualized vision of human rights underpinning HRE in schools is a far cry from their everyday experiences. This raises questions about how Palestinian young people (primarily) and their educators understand, articulate and appropriate human rights and about the factors which influence how they do this.

Through a critical examination of the core conceptual debates within human rights discourse and its relevance to Islamic contexts, it is argued that distrust of the international human rights scheme is driven by fear that it is a form of Western ‘soft’ colonialism. Furthermore, it is contended that whilst Palestinians have employed human rights in grassroots struggles against the occupation, they have become increasingly cynical of this discourse. Through a critique of models of HRE, it is concluded that HRE remains largely undertheorized, privileging a Eurocentric vision located within Dembour’s Natural school. Thus, it is argued that HRE needs to be critiqued, decolonised and expanded not only by scholars but learners themselves. Additionally, the counter-narratives of those who are marginalised need to be included in human rights discourse.

Thesis embargoed until 31 December 2023.
Date of AwardJul 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen's University Belfast
SupervisorLesley Emerson (Supervisor)

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