Sunday,15 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1144, 18 - 24 April 2013
Sunday,15 July, 2018
Issue 1144, 18 - 24 April 2013

Ahram Weekly

Campus chaos

Just a few weeks before final exams, universities are in disarray, reports Reem Leila

Al-Ahram Weekly



Clashes broke out again at Ain Shams University, this time on 16 April. Civil and military police surrounded the campus to end the violence. Student unions of Cairo, Ain Shams, Helwan and Mansoura universities along with 41 student movements also held several protests and sit-ins in a general show of student unease these days in Egypt’s colleges.

The academic year at the faculties of law and arts at Ain Shams University has been suspended after bloody clashes erupted on the university campus. The fighting was due to attacks by thugs on university students. A sit-in of students at the faculty of engineering and pharmacy at Cairo University entered its seventh day, protesting against the imprisonment of several students during clashes in Mansoura University who were protesting against the killing of their colleague Gehad Moussa. Moussa was hit by a car which was driven by Laila Al-Zalabani, a professor of medicine at Mansoura University.

Demands from several universities across the country came to the fore during this week’s protests. University students protested on 13 April against thuggery, on-campus deaths and destruction of university property in order to affect student union elections. Hundreds of students began marching from Cairo University to the Ministry of Higher Education calling for the sacking of the minister, Mustafa Mosaad, and head of the Supreme Council of Private Universities Gamal Nawara.

Students are calling for proper security measures inside university campuses to end attacks by thugs as well as outsiders and to maintain order in general.

In addition, at least 13 student unions from Cairo and Ain Shams stated that Muslim Brotherhood students destroyed ballot boxes used in the Egyptian Student Union (ESU) elections. The ESU was formed after the January Revolution to gather under one umbrella all student unions, including the Muslim Brotherhood, across the country. Muslim Brotherhood candidates were able to win many student union seats in last year’s elections but in this year’s elections the Brotherhood lost many seats, a sign the MB might have lost its popularity.

Student union elections which were conducted on five levels across the country’s public universities, witnessed an unexpected high voter turnout, with remarkable participation from independent and previously apolitical students contesting seats at the faculties’ level.

According to a report released by the Association of Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE), independent and non-Islamist politicised students won a sweeping vote in the universities of Cairo, Ain Shams, Benha, Tanta, Alexandria, Menoufiya, Assiut and Minya.

At the Faculty of Pharmacy at Ain Shams University, the Brotherhood won only nine seats out of 70, while the independent Khatwa bloc gained 60 seats. At the faculties of medicine and engineering, the Muslim Brotherhood also performed poorly.

In Minya University, opposition students won all 56 seats at the Physical Education Faculty; Muslim Brotherhood students took zero seats. At the Faculty of Agriculture at Tanta University, independent students won 66 per cent of the seats compared to just 34 per cent for the Muslim Brotherhood.

The Brotherhood did well expectedly in Al-Azhar University, winning 70 per cent of the seats.

Sohaib Mohamed, a leading Muslim Brotherhood student, said that the media had announced incorrect results. “In Benha University, the Muslim Brotherhood received the highest number of votes. We won 30 per cent of the seats. Independent students won 25 per cent, whereas the Popular Current won 15 per cent, Dostour another 15 per cent and Strong Egypt movement also 15 per cent,” he said.

Students accused Muslim Brotherhood of attacking a protest organised by Ain Shams University’s student union on 14 April. Student union members organised a protest on the same day called “No to thuggery” and demanded the hiring of civilian security to protect the campus. The protest began at the Nour Mosque in Abbasiya district, and continued until Zaafarana Palace where the university president’s office is located. When the protest reached the Faculty of Law, students were attacked with rocks and glass shards thrown by members of the New Vision student group.

Radwa Yassin, a student union member at the Faculty of Engineering, believes that Muslim Brotherhood students are “the police thugs”. Other students confirmed that the MB students were cooperating with National Security previously known as State Security.

“We want the university president to have more control over them and limit their activities and begin an official investigation with them,” Yassin said. “We also want the university to appoint a private security company to be in charge of securing the university campus as well as students.” Yassin accused the current university security of supporting Mahmoud. “They were standing idly while watching thugs attack us,” she said.

Revolutionary Socialist students pointed out that the administration’s negligence towards acts of thuggery committed by Mahmoud aimed at bringing State Security back to the university campus to protect it.

President of Ain Shams University Hussein Eissa rejected the allegations and stated the university will never allow police personnel belonging to the Ministry of Interior to enter the university campus. “The university has already hired a security company whose 250 personnel will take care of the matter. They will inspect all students, employees and professors before entering the campus in order to make sure that none of them is holding or hiding a weapon,” said Eissa.

“We will also fix monitoring cameras and electronic gates in order to intensify security measures inside the university campus,” he added. 

Karim Belal, a student at Ain Shams University, pointed out that many of the students have received threatening messages on their mobiles. “I received an SMS on my mobile stating that I will be slaughtered like a sheep if I participated in any of the ongoing protests. I also received a letter sent to my home address with the same meaning,” said Belal.

Popular Current students issued a statement accusing the attack on the marchers. They also called for penalising whoever was responsible for the attacks no matter his post. They also announced their rejection to bringing security personnel from the Ministry of Interior back to the university. They also called for holding the minister of higher education responsible for all recent acts of violence in many of the country’s universities.

The 6 April youth movement (Democratic Front) students also blamed the attacks and New Vision’s involvement in them. They vowed to escalate their protests if the university did not respond to their demands, on top being the release of detained students of Mansoura University. Ahmed Magdi, a member of the student union and the Dostour Party, said, “We are waiting for the decision of the prosecution. If it does not release them, we will continue with our sit-in until our demands are met. Escalation is possible and to the highest level,” said Magdi but refrained from providing any details about possible future steps.

The New Vision student club representatives were unavailable for comment on the accusations.

Sherif Murad, dean of the Faculty of Engineering in Mansoura University, said he believed that students of Mansoura are not involved in any thuggery on the university’s premises last week. “The university has sent a report of good conduct to the prosecution stating such students could never be involved in such sabotage. We also sent a lawyer from the university’s legal department to follow up with the legal procedures taken to release the students,” said Murad.

Liberal opposition parties have called on the university president as well as its administration to increase security measures and adopt tougher penalties after the thug attack on students. The youth front of the Free Egyptian Party condemned recent assaults and issued a statement saying the attackers who belong to the current ruling regime targeted independent students who belong to the opposition. “It is unacceptable for the country’s universities to become a scene for violence. This is an attempt by the Islamist regime and its group the Muslim Brotherhood to change the identity of our universities in favour of currents that adopt extremist thoughts,” the statement said.

In relevant incidents, protests were conducted in a number of other universities demanding the dismissal of the faculty dean for supposedly belonging to the previous regime. Students at the Faculty of Pharmacy protested against the faculty’s dean Azza Agha, seeking her dismissal. On 15 April students banned university professors from entering the university until 11.30am.

Faculty student Mohsen Ibrahim who is to graduate this year, stated, “the current dean belongs to the regime of former president Hosni Mubarak as she was appointed in 2009. Accordingly it is about time for her to leave. Enough with corruption; we are fed up.”

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