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Open Letter from student societies demanding the University cancel the Balfour ‘celebrations’

Dear Professor Nancy Rothwell

It has come to our attention that the University of Manchester plans to host an event co-organised by the Israeli embassy and the Zionist Federation, to celebrate 100 years since the Balfour Declaration on Tuesday 31st October at 7.30pm. By agreeing to this, is the University oblivious that the event you will be hosting, will celebrate the Declaration that lead to the expulsion of 800,000 Palestinians from their homes and the destruction of over 400 villages during al-Nakba in 1948?

Is the University unaware that the Balfour Declaration ultimately led to massacres of innocent people, and the ongoing illegal occupation of the West Bank and Gaza for 50 years?

This perverse celebration compounds the University of Manchester’s existing institutional and investment links with Israeli institutions complicit in war crimes.

Only a few weeks ago, an investigation by the Guardian exposed how the University censored student-organised Palestinian solidarity events after meeting with the Israeli embassy. Now, news of this event makes clear that the University is more committed to continuing its relationship with the embassy of a repressive state than it is to accountability and duty of care to its own students, faculty and staff.

Britain’s colonial occupation of Palestine since the First World War was not a benign intervention. Not only was it violent and unwelcome, the British 1917 Balfour Declaration was the green light for those seeking an Israeli state to plan for the forced removal of the indigenous Palestinian population. During British rule, Ben Gurion, the future first Israeli Prime Minister, said in 1937 “We must expel the Arabs and take their place”. In 1947-48 this was carried out in a well-planned ethnic cleansing operation that involved mass expulsion, murder and imprisonment, and the destruction of hundreds of villages.

This is now well documented by Israeli historians and soldiers from the time, as well as the Palestinians, many of whom still have the keys to their homes but for decades since have been denied their right to return.

Celebrating the Balfour declaration is a mockery of the suffering of the Palestinian people, and is greatly disrespectful for Palestinian students at the university who have, alongside their families, been forced to live their entire lives under the boot of the Israeli army.  Would you not consider for a second listening to Palestinian students’ experiences as they relay a life of having their university bombed by Israeli F16s, losing university class mates to Israeli snipers or having their whole house demolished to be expelled for not being the desired ethnic group by Israel leaders? This celebration of their loss illustrates the appalling double standards and disdain the University is showing towards Palestinian students and Israel’s abominable treatment of them.

Given that there will be so many at this event who have served in the Israeli army that violently dominates every living moment of Palestinian students’ lives, it is obvious the environment created by this event is unsafe for Palestinian students, many of whom have suffered directly at the hands of the Israeli security services. A large number of students have expressed fear for their safety with Israeli security personnel roaming our campus. By allowing this event to take place and hosting the Israeli embassy, the university is failing to uphold its basic duty of care to staff and students.

The implications are doubly grave both for Palestinians studying now at the University and to the idea that universities should not be a place for celebrating colonialism and racism.

We demand that the University of Manchester cancel the event at the earliest opportunity.

UoM Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Campaign
UoM Action Palestine
UoM Arab Society
UoM Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism!
UoM Sri Lankan Society
BME MCR (the campaign for Black and Minority Ethnic students at the University of Manchester)
UoM Marxist Society
UoM Tamil Society
UoM Islamic Society

 

 

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PROTEST: Apartheid Off Campus!

The University of Manchester has been colluding with the Israeli embassy over events ran by the student BDS campaign. A British university should not be engaging in such discussions with any Foreign government, especially Israel.

Guardian article: https://www.theguardian.com/education/2017/sep/29/manchester-university-censors-title-holocaust-survivor-speech-criticising-israel

MiddleEast Monitor article:
https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20170929-israeli-embassy-accused-of-pressuring-uk-university-to-censor-free-speech/

The Tab:
https://thetab.com/uk/manchester/2017/09/29/the-university-of-manchester-has-censored-the-subtitle-of-a-holocaust-survivors-speech-29646

Many students at the university of Manchester are of Palestinian origin, and such meetings with the Israeli embassy over a campaign in support of Palestinian human rights is a mockery of the suffering Palestinians have faced under Israel’s apartheid regime and violates all ‘social responsibility’ ethics preached by the University of Manchester.

Our campaign demands the university end all ties to Israel’s apartheid regime, which includes their investments in companies such as Caterpillar. Caterpillar continues to supply armoured bulldozers specifically for the Israeli army, used to demolish Palestinian homes.

Israel has been systematically ethnically cleansing the Palestinians for almost seven decades, while imposing a regime of apartheid to separate and subjugate those Palestinians that remain. Anti-Apartheid hero and Nobel Peace prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu has been to Palestine and described it in parts as “worse” than Apartheid South Africa, calling for similar Boycott Divestment and Sanctions that helped end it. Palestinian citizens within Israel face more than 50 laws which discriminate against them. Israel has continued to hold Palestinian civilians in Gaza under a blockade for over a decade, restricting the population from basic goods, clean water and electricity. In their last attack on Gaza, which targeted civilian infrastructure, over 2000 Palestinians, including over 500 children were murdered. Israel continues to commit war crimes, which also include the constant demolition of Palestinian homes within Palestinian territory, to expand their illegal Israeli settlements.

Yet, our university remains deeply linked to Israel’s continuing crimes against humanity through their investment and institutional links.

Join us on October 4th, as the University of Manchester board of governors meets, to demand that the University end all links with Israel’s war crimes including divestment from companies that are complicit in human rights abuses!

Stand for justice and join us at the #ApartheidOffCampus protest.

FB EVENT: https://www.facebook.com/events/1755457381414735/

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Carlos Latuff illustrates University of Manchester’s support for Israeli Apartheid

The internationally renowned artist Carlos Latuff drew a piece displaying the hypocrisy of a British ‘socially responsible’ university which invests money raised through tuition fees for the destruction of Palestinian homes. The University of Manchester is the only university in the UK to include ‘Social Responsibility’ among its top 3 priorities. Their ‘socially responsible investment policy’ is a key component of their self-proclaimed ‘social responsibility’. The policy details their intent to abstain from investments in companies which either contribute to human rights violations or/and armament sales to military regimes.

However, despite their self-proclaimed ‘social responsibility’ both “nationally and internationally”, the university continues to invest over £70 million in companies which are complicit in human rights violations both in Palestine and across the globe. For instance, one major contradiction of its investment policy is their investments in companies such as Caterpillar. Caterpillar supply the armored bulldozers for the Israeli Defense Forces which are used for the demolition of Palestinian homes to make way for the ever-expanding illegal Israeli settlements.

The funding of such investments arises from students tuition fees. Fees which are meant to contribute to further benefit the educational system, and increasing the university’s message of ‘social responsibility’. Yet, to the contrary, every student is contributing to the funding of ethnic cleansing and war crimes, as defined under the Geneva conventions. There are already over 5 million Palestinian refugees according to the UN. The demolition of Palestinian homes only contributes to the rise of the Palestinian refugee count. Investing in Caterpillar and similar companies contributes to both human rights violations and armament sales.

Latuff also expressed his support vocally for the BDS campaign: “I’m glad I made this cartoon for the BDS campaign at the University of Manchester because I support the efforts of its activists and I firmly believe on BDS as a way of pressure against the long-term Israeli apartheid on Palestinian territory”.

T-shirts and prints are available with the Carlos Latuff sketch.

 

 

Hunger strike in solidarity with Palestinian Political prisoners.

We, the students of the University of Manchester, are going on hunger strike solely in solidarity with Palestinian political prisoners. 1,500 Palestinian prisoners have started a hunger strike on 17th April 2017. Many of them are underaged, and most of them have been in Israeli jails for years. They have started a hunger strike to demand basic human rights: the ability to contact their families via telephone, medical care and recover their confiscated belongings, the end of isolation in prisons and imprisonment without charge or trial.

Decades ago, university students were key in demanding the end of apartheid of South Africa. University students have paid a key role in many anti-racist struggles, including Black Lives Matter. The struggle for justice for the Palestinians is no different, they have 70 years of unremitting mistreatment, including thousands of deaths, systemic expulsions, institutional racism and apartheid. We stand in solidarity with them.

As students we feel a responsibility to support the Palestinian cause. Through our tuition fees we are funding the university’s activities, which support the Israeli apartheid regime. As most British universities, the University of Manchester invests millions of pounds in companies which are complicit with the suffering of the Palestinians. For instance, the university invests millions in Caterpillar, a company that supplies the bulldozers used by the Israeli Defence Forces to demolish Palestinian homes.

It is not only our right, but also our duty to end this injustice. Justice will win.

Don’t Punish Protest – Open Letter to the University of Manchester

 

Dear Dame Nancy and Dr Redmond,

Two of our students from the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) Movement are facing disciplinary hearings this week (29th March) due to carrying out a banner drop on the Samuel Alexander building which read ‘Stop Arming Israel’.

This action occurred on March 2nd as part of the activities of Israeli Apartheid Week. The students drew attention to the University of Manchester’s contravention of its own Policy for Socially Responsible Investment in investing in companies such as Caterpillar, who supply armoured bulldozers for the Israel Defence Forces, vehicles used to raze Palestinian homes in the occupied territories, and in collaborating with Technion Institute of Technology, leaders in the research and development of hi-tech weaponry for the IDF.

Such investments and collaborations by the University lend credibility and infrastructural support to Israel’s occupation, a regime ‘sustained by the same three pillars of apartheid that were once maintained in South Africa: the designation of a racialized identity with preferential legal status (whites in South Africa, Jews in Israel and the occupied territories); the fragmentation of territory for the purposes of segregation and domination; and the maintenance of “security” laws directed against one population (blacks, Palestinians) for the protection of the racially privileged group’ (Saree Makdisi, ‘Architectures of Erasure’, Critical Inquiry, 2010). Indeed, as Makdisi continues, the structure of apartheid is even more complete in the occupied territories, for its function here is not to control, circulate, and exploit black labour within society, but to separate, contain, and remove Palestinians in the onward expansion of Israel’s land-grab.

The University should applaud these two students for drawing attention to the hypocrisy of abetting Israel’s apartheid regime while professing a socially responsible investment policy. Instead, we see with dismay that they are to be subject to disciplinary hearings.

We the undersigned members of the academic community at the University of Manchester appeal to you in the strongest terms: 1) to withdraw completely the threat to discipline these students; 2) to make swift moves to divest the University from firms that abet the apartheid regime of Israel; and 3) to meet the University’s obligation to respond to the two Freedom of Information requests by the BDS Movement (due on 3rd and 7th April) to present publicly the full extent of the University’s financial involvement with companies who invest in Israel.

Yours sincerely,

Manchester UCU Executive Committee

UNISON, University of Manchester

Professor Claire Alexander

Dr David Alderson

Zahra Alijah

Professor Mona Baker (Emerita)

Dr Naomi Baker

Dr Lauren Banko

Dermot Barr

Dr Anke Bernau

Dr Howard Booth

Professor Erica Burman

Dr Bridget Byrne

Dr Niall Carson

Dr Tanzil Chowdhury

Emma Clarke

Dr Michelle Coghlan

Alessandro Columbu

Dr Steven Courtney

Dr Jerome de Groot

Professor Laura Doan

Professor Mike Donmall

Professor Jeanette Edwards

Professor Aneez Esmail

Dr Douglas Field

Gaelle Flower

Dr Molly Geidel

Dr Kevin Gillan

Leah Gilman

Professor Hal Gladfelder

Dr Ingrid Hanson

Dr Ben Harker

Dr Bethan Harries

Professor Penelope Harvey

Dr Malcolm Hicks (retired)

Dr Jenny Hughes

Dr Andrew Irving

Professor Tim Jacoby

Dr Stef Jansen

Dr Andrew Jones

Dr Steven Jones

Paul Kelemen, Honorary Research Fellow

Frances Leviston

Dr Camilla Lewis

John McAuliffe

Dr Peter McMylor

Professor Roseanne McNamee (retired)

Narinder Mann

Professor Miguel Martinez Lucio

Dr Stefania Marino

Dr Orieb Masadeh-Tate

Professor David Matthews

Dr Vanessa May

Dr Robert Meckin

Lydia Merryll

Dr Dalia Mostafa

Professor Khalid Nadvi

Dr Adel Nasser

Dr Richie Nimmo

Dr Michelle Obeid

Dr Adam Ozanne

Professor Ian Parker, Honorary Professorial Research Fellow

Dr Monica Pearl

Professor Luis Perez-Gonzalez

Dr Floriane Place-Verghnes

Dr Eithne Quinn

Dr Madeleine Reeves

Professor Dee Reynolds

Professor Chris Roberts (Emeritus)

Dr John Roache

Dr Emily Rohrbach

Dr Michael Sanders

Kate Sapin

Dr Fred Schurink

Dr Tony Simpson

Dr Graham Smith

Dr Robert Spencer

Professor Jackie Stacey

Dr Ingrid Storm

Dr Nicholas Thoburn

Dr Petra Tjitske Kalshoven

Dr Angela Torresan

Dr William Turner

Dr Anastasia Valassopoulos

Dr Sivamohan Valluvan

Dr Bram Vanhoutte

Professor Peter Wade

Dr Chika Watanabe

Dr Dan Welch

Professor Janet Wolff (Emerita)

Dr Luke Yates

31 days in the Holy Land

Written by Mark Vaughan

Between the 30th June and the 31st of July 2016 I travelled to Palestine to volunteer for SkatePAL, a charity that builds skateparks and teaches children skateboarding in the West Bank. This report will describe my experience volunteering with SkatePAL, followed by a brief history of the conflict, leading onto a discussion of a resolution to the worsening conflict, and finally an outline of my costs. The history of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is undoubtedly highly complex and difficult to fully understand, however throughout my trip it became increasingly apparent that a resolution (or at least a mutual easing of tensions) would be easy to achieve and beneficial to both sides. This may seem like an ill-informed and over optimistic interpretation of a conflict that has rumbled on for almost seven decades, and one might reasonably question why this has not already been achieved. The answer is simple and unsavoury- because the Israeli government has not yet fulfilled its objective of expansion. To be absolutely clear, any perceived criticism of the Israeli government that may be construed from this report is solely of the political institution that governs the nation, not of Jewish people.

 

As a SkatePAL volunteer I was responsible for teaching children (majority aged 6-15, with the occasional adult giving it a try!) every weekday at the village skatepark, which was built by volunteers the previous year. The teaching often entailed demonstrating a particular trick followed by hand holding and copious high fives and shouting of momtaz (Arabic word for excellent). Some of the kids took to skateboarding very quickly, which was incredibly satisfying to know that SkatePAL had revealed this natural talent. For others it was of course less natural, but nevertheless rewarding for me and for them to see progression. Irrespective of ability, the smiles on the children’s faces spoke for itself. One of the highlights of my volunteering was witnessing a girl teaching another child a trick that I had taught her the previous day, which demonstrated to me that SkatePAL was building a skate scene that would perpetuate itself. On the weekends I and other volunteers would travel around Palestine with our skateboards, which often resulted in unofficially teaching skateboarding to the excited and curious children of wherever we were! When walking around the village in the evenings the other volunteers and I were verbally welcomed to Palestine by the majority of people, as well as being invited into people’s homes on numerous occasions for mint tea or dinner. The kindness of the people was truly incredible, despite the international community turning a blind eye to the occupation for 5 decades, I (as an international) have never been in the company of more hospitable people.

Following an escalation of tensions between the native Palestinians and the Jewish population in the area, in 1947 a two state solution was devised to physically divide the parties and consequently ease the conflict. Under this UN doctrine which was agreed on by both parties, the state of Israel would be created and given 55% of the previously Palestinian land, and the Palestinian people would receive the remaining 45% of the contested land. Following the Six Day War in 1968 the Israeli government authorised the building of military outposts in the West Bank. Whilst the military occupation of another country is legal under international law, it soon became apparent that these military outposts were growing into settlements for citizens of Israel to go and live. This is an explicit and overt violation of international law. Unsurprisingly, the increasing military and civilian occupation of Palestinian land, as well as the capture of Palestinian water sources (forcing local people to buy their water, for example in the village of Nabi Saleh) aggravated tensions. The Israeli presence inside what is supposedly Palestine is vast, with regular military checkpoints on all roads, total control of all borders, exclusively Israeli motorways, daily low flying fighter jet disturbances as well as the growing number of heavily guarded Israeli civilians in the West Bank, currently 550,000 settlers according to Israeli rights group B’Tselem. It may seem surprising that so many Israelis wish to live in settlements in Palestine, considering the anti-Israeli sentiment which is evident in the West Bank. The principle reason why this is the case is because the Israeli government financially subsidises housing in settlements. These financial subsidies reveal the expansionist intention of the Israeli government in the West Bank. The other, less prevalent reason is ideological- the belief that because Jewish people lived in this land thousands of years ago it is rightfully theirs to return to. I do not however find this argument to be compelling, because according to this same logic, Italy would have a claim to most of Europe under the Roman Empire.

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As stated in my introduction, the conflict continues to deteriorate because the government of Israel does not desire peace until its foreign policy of expansionism to the Jordan River (therefore the eradication of Palestine) is complete. Whilst this is not their stated aim, the continual expansion of illegal settlements and increasing administrative control of the West Bank is sufficient evidence of an attempt to achieve this aim gradually, thereby avoiding intense international scrutiny. I do not believe the clarity of this intention can be fully understood without visiting Palestine, because Israeli border security do everything in their power to prevent the international community from helping Palestine, for example by restricting the flow of information leaving the West Bank to obscure the extent of the illegal occupation (because as stated Israel has control of all Palestinian borders). On my return journey I was encouraged by numerous people to delete all Palestinian contacts and pictures (which I had backed up), because it was not uncommon for airport security to check travellers phones for evidence of aiding Palestinians. If they had found such evidence it would likely be destroyed, and the offender prevented from returning to Israel and therefore Palestine. If informing the world of the extent of the truth is made difficult, it is unlikely that there will be sufficient international pressure to stop the occupation.

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I visited both Israel and Palestine as a spectator, an impartial individual with no historic ties or vested interests in either peoples or areas of land. After reading the history, speaking with countless people in both Palestine and Israel, as well as experiencing both nations for myself I have come to the conclusion that the chief aggravator of the conflict is the illegal military and civilian occupation of the West Bank. All of the weekly protests that ensue in the West Bank, as well as the first and second intifada (large scale conflict) are directly attributable to the Israeli occupation, not the existence of the neighbouring state of Israel. Certainly, there would still be a minority that wish to retake all of the pre-1947 state of Palestine (present day Israel). However, the prospect of peace and national sovereignty would likely pacify the huge majority. The Israeli government recognises that their illegal occupation drives a minority of frustrated Palestinian people to terrorism, and so has built a wall to attempt to stop these people from achieving their violent aim. Therefore instead of addressing the root cause of the issue which is their illegal occupation of the West Bank, the Israeli government instead tackles the symptoms of the issue by attempting to keep terrorists out. Physically excluding certain people who may not yet have even exposed themselves as a terrorist suspect, as well as placing more checks and restrictions on the huge majority of peaceful Palestinians is both unlikely to work, and detrimental to the conflict. If the illegal occupation of the West Bank is ended, Palestinian people will not be driven to violence and so there will be a consequent cooling of tensions. Over several decades, the absence of violent attacks caused by a frustration with overt injustice will diminish the requirement for a wall to separate the two states. If such a state of affairs were to be achieved, the quality of life for Palestinian people would be unimaginably improved through national sovereignty, justice and security. Furthermore, the state of Israel would benefit by not having to exist in fear of terrorist attacks, having a lower military budget (currently 6.2% of GDP compared to 3.3% for the US), not having to conscript it’s citizens, as well as making peace with other neighbouring states which also object to the occupation (for example Algeria).

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I would like to thank the Zochonis Special Enterprise Fund for giving me this opportunity to first and foremost help Palestinian children, but also to build lasting friendships with other international volunteers and local people. Volunteering for SkatePAL has helped me develop personally at least as much as I know it has helped the children on the ground. As is probably apparent, I found the historical and political dimension of this trip extremely intellectually stimulating, developing my interest in international politics and conflict resolution. In the future I plan to return to Palestine again in the capacity of a SkatePAL volunteer, and possibly through a career in international politics.

Author: Mark Vaughan

Other funding: Work experience bursary £200

 

Costs:

-Flights £250

-Weekend domestic travel £50

-Accomodation £50

-Travel insurance £100

-Food £200

-Souvenirs and experiences £50

 

Black and white photos taken by SkatePAL volunteer and photographer Loïc Laforge

Largest Student Union in the UK endorses BDS

On the 8th December, the Senate of the University of Manchester Student Union, the largest student union in the United Kingdom, passed a motion in support of the movement for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel. The motion won the support of 60% of the SU Senate, demonstrating the strong student support for the BDS movement at the University of Manchester. The motion was put forward by Huda Ammori (President of Recognise Refugee Rights Society), and was strongly supported by Etisha Choudhury, the President of Action Palestine, and the BDS Campaigns Committee.

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Our campaign at Manchester aims to connect our university to this global movement for justice and equality, and calls on the university administration to end its ties with businesses and institutions that are particularly complicit in violations of Palestinian human rights. In particular, the campaign demands that:

  • The University of Manchester sells its £15 million of investments in companies linked to Israel’s crimes against the Palestinian people. These investments include a stake worth just under £1 million in Caterpillar, who manufacture the armoured bulldozers which have been used by Israel to destroy more than 25,000 Palestinian homes since 1967. These investments are a violation of the University’s own Ethical Investment Policy which seeks to eliminate investments in companies linked to violations of human rights.
  • The University ends it ties to the Technion, the Israeli Institute of Technology, which has deep ties to the Israeli arms industry, especially Elbit Systems and Rafael Advanced Systems. The Technion remains the main research centre in Israel for developing weapons used by the Israeli military against the Palestinian population, and has developed, for example, components for the Merkava M4 Battle Tank and the D-9 Armoured Bulldozer. These weapons have been used to kill thousands of Palestinians and destroy tens of thousands of homes.

Students of the University of Manchester want to show that they stand for peace, justice and equality. We will continue until every Student Union and University endorses BDS. The power of student activism should not be under-estimated, every win for BDS is one step closer to an end in the illegal occupation and war crimes committed by Israel. We listened to the call from the Palestinian Civil Society for the international community to boycott, divest and sanction Israel, and we will do everything in our power until every institution in the UK supports BDS. If our government won’t support Palestine, then we will make sure that the people do. Justice will win.

To date BDS has been embraced by thousands of organisations and institutions around the world, as well as by major public figures such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Angela Davis, Ken Loach, and Naomi Klein. The UoM BDS campaign is a movement for justice and equality and is rooted in an unequivocal opposition to all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism. Nationally and internationally many Jewish organisations and Jewish individuals have spoken out in support of the BDS movement, including UJS presidential candidate Eran Cohen. We will continue to keep our BDS campaign open to all individuals and we will work together to end oppression.

The Palestinian-led global BDS movement, which is modelled in part on the successful campaign against apartheid South Africa, is based on a simple argument; the Palestinian people are entitled to the same basic human rights as everyone else. For decades Palestinian human rights have been violated by Israel’s brutal system of settler colonialism, apartheid, and occupation, a system, which has only been possible with major international support. The BDS movement seeks to build a global popular response to the on-going injustice in Palestine in order to pressure Israel to comply with international law.

Even though our campaign is still in its initial stages, Thursday night’s vote confirms there is strong student support for BDS at Manchester, and since our campaign began three weeks ago, more than 15 academics and 250 students have signed a letter of support for our demands, including members of the Jewish community.  This level of mass support shows that students and academics from diverse backgrounds at this university stand in solidarity with Palestine and recognise the necessity of the BDS movement in order to end Israel’s system of settler colonialism, apartheid, and occupation and achieve justice for the Palestinian people.

We ask you to stand with us, and join our campaign. Wherever you are, together in solidarity we can all contribute to the BDS movement in the hope to end the occupation of Palestine.

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Petition : https://goo.gl/forms/Uxir7QaGcsSlS2v13

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/bdsuom/