Wednesday,15 August, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1168, (10 - 16 October 2013)
Wednesday,15 August, 2018
Issue 1168, (10 - 16 October 2013)

Ahram Weekly

Incubators of unrest

Demonstrations are rocking Egypt’s universities, reports Reem Leila

Al-Ahram Weekly

The new academic year kicked off last month, with pro-Morsi protests threatening the security of public universities. Many political analysts expect that Egypt’s universities are about to be turned into major incubators of political unrest.
The Islamist Anti-Coup Alliance called for staging widespread protests this week at schools and universities against what they described as a military coup. Plans for nationwide protests of universities are still being drawn up and are expected to escalate. Hundreds of students supporting the toppled president Mohamed Morsi demonstrated against the interim government on 7 October.
At Cairo University, more than 500 Islamist students protested under the slogan “Students against the Coup”, as they organised a big march from the university’s Faculty of Commerce to Al-Nahda Square in front of the university. The students chanted slogans against the Armed Forces and Minister of Defence Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi, crying “Down, down with military rule”, “Al-Sisi is a traitor” and “No legitimacy without Morsi”.
During the protests, students were holding yellow banners and flags on which the four-finger Rabaa Al-Adaweya symbol was printed, in reference to the bloody dispersal of the square of Muslim Brotherhood supporters in August. Spokesman for Youth against the Coup Mahmoud Zayed said that the military-led interim government has “a massive impact” on the quality of education.
“There’s no trust between the students and Armed Forces, because education hasn’t improved since the late president Gamal Abdel-Nasser,” said Zayed. “We can say ‘It’s time to have better education in Egypt,’ but so long as there’s no true representation of all political trends, the government will not improve anything, especially education.”
Despite the heavy presence of policemen, hundreds of students joined the demonstration as it left the gates of Cairo University and moved towards Al-Nahda. When security forces prevented students from proceeding towards the square, they formed a human chain in front of the university’s gate to protect themselves against police attacks. After a few hours, the demonstration dispersed peacefully without any confrontation with the police.
At Ain Shams University, students protested against police attacks on peaceful protesters while celebrating the 6 October War anniversary. Students were chanting slogans against the military and what they described as a coup. Students were also chanting slogans requesting the return of Morsi and his “legitimate” ruling.
Students wanted to continue with their march outside university premises, but could not as they were faced with tanks as well as police forces outside the university.
At the same time, Al-Sisi’s supporters were chanting slogans and singing the song Teslam Al-Ayadi (Bless the Hands). Anti-Morsi students’ slogans were pro the Armed Forces and Al-Sisi such as “The army, police and the people are hand-in-hand”, “We will protect Egypt”, and “Al-Sisi is my president”.
Political analysts called the Islamists’ call for university students to protests against the army a high-risk attempt to deprive the current high command of the army’s legacy and patriotic pride in the Arab-Israeli conflict. Political analyst Hassan Nafaa who is a professor of political science at Cairo University pointed out, “Islamists will all the time try to show that the army is not the army of all Egyptians, but only of those who supported what they believe was a coup.” Nafaa believes that Islamists have drastically failed in delivering this message as “it did not go down well,” said Nafaa.
Nafaa holds Islamists responsible for the violent wave of clashes between students in universities and on the streets. “Islamists are fully responsible for all the blood of people being spilt right now, and for every person killed due to the calls to use violence against people, especially students,” said Nafaa.
Nafaa said Islamists are planning to drag the country to a crisis. “They intend to impede education at universities by continuous protests and by creating an atmosphere of instability.”
The country is currently suffering, according to Nafaa, from chaos and disorder. “Traffic jams are becoming intolerable these days. Islamists intentionally cause this by organising regular marches all over the country. Small groups of Islamists comprised of not more than 50 persons are surfing the country’s streets anywhere and everywhere, thus causing blockage of traffic for long hours,” said Nafaa.
Islamist groups are calling for retribution for those killed during the Armed Forces deadly attack on peaceful protesters since the toppling of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi. Analysts believe that with Morsi’s supporters calling for further protests, Islamists will incite violence and further confrontations are expected to shake Egypt during the coming period.
Emad Gad, a political analyst at Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies said the Muslim Brotherhood has been decapitated, especially after most of its leaders were arrested. Gad believes that universities mirror society as they are part and parcel of it. “Throughout history, Islamists have been unable to change their strategy. They are doing the same thing that was done during King Farouk and Nasser’s era, which is violent attacks on the country’s vital entities,” said Gad, adding that the protests are “alienating the majority of Egyptians”.
According to Gad, Islamists have lost control. “They lost what they were known for — the most organised group. Their protests and riots are more similar to flash mobs than to coordinated marches,” said Gad.
In a statement published on Ikhwanweb, a Muslim Brotherhood official website, pro-Morsi people are calling on all Egyptians to gather in massive non-violent marches. “Islamists have no intention to compromise. The anti-coup and pro-democracy national alliances are calling on Morsi’s supporters to continue with their revolution, fuelled by what they believe as the precious blood and souls of the noble martyrs,” said Gad.
Alia Al-Mahdi, professor at Cairo University’s Faculty of Economics and Political Sciences, pointed out that Islamists believe that if they whip up instability in Egypt’s universities “it will be as if all Egyptians are protesting for what they claim is the honourable path that is going to end with victory by the grace of God.”
“It’s true that students and university communities are part of the society and what is happening in the country is easily reflected on universities, yet students are not the society, and not all of students are Islamists. Islamists could be considered a phenomenon which will soon come to an end,” Al-Mahdi said.

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