Academic Freedom under Siege in Egypt

BY SAFEI ELDIN HAMED

Guest blogger Safei Eldin Hamed is Chair of the Center for Egyptian American Relations (CEAR). CEAR is a nonprofit, non-governmental organization founded in 2013 and incorporated under the laws of the state of Maryland in accordance with Section 501(c)(3). It was established as an educational and charitable organization, and focuses on promoting and strengthening Egyptian-American relations and on encouraging democratic principles.  

Al-AzharFlickrUpyernoz(CCBY2.0)

Al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt.

Historically, Egypt was the country that introduced to humanity–almost ten centuries ago–Al-Azhar University, which is considered the first institution of higher education in the world.

For the last three years, since July 3, 2013, hundreds of professors in Egypt have been either killed, tortured, jailed, fired, or harassed because of their political affiliations or views. Intellectuals and educators in the Middle East are very concerned about the iron fist treatment across different campuses, which have turned Egyptian universities into semi-military barracks, where thousands of students have been suspended or expelled, hundreds have faced arbitrary arrests, and many others were evicted from the campus residences. Even peaceful rallies and student union events are banned. All of these measures are obviously in clear violation of the 2014 Egyptian Constitution and in total disregard of international conventions to which Egypt has signed.

Individual professors, human rights organizations, and faculty associations in Egypt have contacted various NGOs in the USA and Europe to report these overwhelming violations, and to seek the support of the international academic community. They are alarmed by the extrajudicial killings of Egyptian students and the continuing use of excessive force by the security police to break up demonstrations and rallies opposing the military coup and its regime. The worst part of the current crisis is the total surrender of the university administrations to the military junta and its security forces.

The Center for Egyptian American Relations (CEAR) is working hard to compile a database that include the field reports that monitor, document, and detect all violations against Egyptian students based on field work received from inside Egypt. This database suggests that many violations already took place against university students and professors between July 2013 and January 2016. As an example of these statistics, we concluded the following:

Number of students who have been tried in military courts = 160 students

Number of students who have been killed inside the prisons = 7 students

Number of students who have been killed in university campuses = 24 students

Number of students who have been victims of extrajudicial killings = 245

Number of students who have disappeared and still are unaccounted for = 464

Number of students who have been expelled = 1064

Number of students who have been evicted from the dorms = 142

Unfortunately, all Egyptian universities today are in peril, and steadily deteriorating under a heavy handed dictatorial regime. Most members of the American academy are not aware of the current grim conditions of their colleagues in Egypt, but they should be. AAUP should lend a hand and raise its voice before it is too late because academic freedom has no borders.

For further information contact:
Safei-Eldin Hamed, Ph.D.
Center for Egyptian American Relations (CEAR)
Washington, DC
safeihamed@gmail.com

 

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