New rector of University of Glasgow praises Bobby Sands in speech

Dr Ghassan Abu Sittah, a British-Palestinian surgeon, quoted the IRA hunger striker in his opening address

Dr Ghassan Abu-Sittah, the newly appointed rector of the University of Glasgow.
Dr Ghassan Abu-Sittah, the newly appointed rector of the University of Glasgow.

THE new rector of Glasgow University, a well-known British-Palestinian surgeon, has used his first official speech to praise IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands.

A former student at Glasgow University, Dr Ghassan Abu Sittah is a plastic and reconstructive surgeon who spent 43 days working at hospitals in Gaza following the October 7 Hamas attacks and the ongoing retaliation from Israeli forces.

After being appointed this month, Dr Abu Sittah said: “I aim to be the voice of students, to give them an opportunity to express their utter disapproval of the genocide being committed in Gaza.

“I will echo the demands on campus calling for divestment from the arms trade.”

Recently addressing an official university event, he concluded his speech with: “In the words of the immortal Bobby Sands ‘Our revenge will be the laughter of our children.’”

The Provisional IRA man and elected MP was jailed for firearms offences before his death in the Maze Prison in 1981.

Sinn Féin President Mary-Lou McDonald was among those sharing a video clip of Prof Abu Sittah’s address, commenting: “An incredible achievement…and powerful expression of global solidarity with Palestinian freedom.”

His appointment has not been without controversy.

Jewish students at the University of Glasgow expressed concerns about his campaign pledge to change the institution’s definition of antisemitism.

He had stated that while being against all forms of antisemitism, conflating it with criticism of Israel risked “undermining freedom of speech and intellectual thought on campus”.

At the time, a university spokesperson said they recognised the concerns of Jewish students and community leaders and that student safety remained a priority.

“Rectors throughout our history have been free to express their thoughts and represent those of students, but they do not represent those of the university.”

Previous holders for the University of Glasgow rector position have included the anti-apartheid activist Winnie Mandela as well as Arthur Balfour – who in 1917 supported the British government’s declaration to establish a “national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine.