His Excellency Muhammad Husni Mubarak
President, Arab Republic of Egypt
Dear President Mubarak,
We are writing on behalf of the Middle East Studies Association of North America (MESA) and its Committee on Academic Freedom (CAF) to follow up on concerns initially expressed in a letter dated 7 May 2007 regarding hearings, suspensions, and arrests on several Egyptian university campuses of students belonging to the Kifaya movement or the Muslim Brotherhood. Security service and police intervention have most recently aimed at repressing students’ free exercise of their right to vote in student elections.
The Middle East Studies Association of North America (MESA) was founded in 1966 to promote scholarship and teaching on the Middle East and North Africa. The preeminent organization in the field, the Association publishes the International Journal of Middle East Studies and has more than 2700 members worldwide. MESA is committed to ensuring academic freedom and freedom of expression, both within the region and in connection with the study of the region in North America and elsewhere.
According to press and other media reports, for the past two weeks, university administrations and State Security officers have been systematically engineering student union elections by preventing Ikhwan, Kifaya and leftist students from filing candidacies. Campuses have been circled with riot police and trucks, and plainclothes police and armed provocateurs have been allowed onto campuses to disrupt and assault protesting students. In addition, activist students have been suspended and arrested.
Among the specific cases that have come to our attention are the following:
- The Law School Dean at Assiut University has suspended two student members of Kifaya for one month.
- Four Ikhwan students from the Helwan University School of Social Work have been suspended for the entire semester without first being interrogated or referred to disciplinary tribunals, charged with distributing pamphlets and putting up posters. Three of the four students were also suspended in April for two years each, but re-instated after a court ruled in their favor.
- Ten Ikhwan students from Ain Shams who were ordered released by prosecutors on 10/25 were re-arrested and taken to the Interior Ministry headquarters in Lazoghly. In connection with events the previous day (10/24) on campus, the March 9 Movement for the Independence of Universities and the Press Syndicate both issued statements condemning the armed provocateurs’ storming of the Ain Shams campus. The March 9 statement was signed by 58 faculty members at Ain Shams and other universities and states in part, “The Ain Shams University administration is wholly responsible for the entry of armed thugs onto campus who then assaulted students and journalists.” (al-Masry al-Yawm, 10/29).
- Three Ikhwan students at Fayoum University were re-arrested on 10/25 aft er prosecutors had released them the previous day.
- At Cairo University, students have been prevented from staging rallies to express their rejection of improper practices and rigging of student elections. The university has barred students from entering or exiting from the main gate of the university, which has led to clashes with university guards. Moreover, at least one professor associated with the National Democratic Party, Dr Muhammad Fathi Abd-al-Alim of the school of science, threatened his students that if they did not participate in the election process, he would give them lesser grades.
- At Banha University the university administration deleted the names of all Muslim Brotherhood candidates from the fi nal lists of student union elections. Th is was preceded by a series of violations. Nomination of student candidates was permitted only on Th ursday, 11 October 2007, which was the last day of school before the Id holiday. Consequently, no one was on campus.
- At al-Azhar (Assiut campus), two students in the medical school were interrogated and suspended on charges of recruiting for the Muslim Brothers on campus. 100 students were expelled from the dormitories for belonging to the Muslim Brothers.
The free participation in student elections is a key element of academic freedom. We are deeply disturbed by the reports coming from Egypt indicating continuing intimidation and assaults against student activists. We call on you to look into these violations, to put an end to them, to reinstate any students suspended, and release any arrested for the simple exercise of their right to elect representatives.
Dr. Hany Mahfouz Helal,
Minister of Higher Education
101 Kasr al-Aini St.
His Excellency Nabil Fahmy
Ambassador of the Arab Republic of Egypt
His Excellency Francis J. Ricciardone, Jr.
United States Ambassador to the Arab Republic of Egypt Fax: +20-2-797-3200
Mr. Khaled Aly Elbakly
Minister P. and Deputy Permanent Representative
Permanent Mission of the Arab Republic of Egypt to the United Nations Fax: +20-2-390-9622
Dr. Ahmad Zaki Badr
President, Ain Shams University
Dr. Hosam Eddine Mohammad El-Attar
President, Banha University
Dr. Ali Abdel Rahman Youssef
President, Cairo University
Dr. Abd al-Hayy Ebeid
President, Helwan University
Dr. Galal Mostafa Saeed
President, Fayyoum University
Fayyoum 63514, Egypt
Fax: +20-2-084 637-7064
Dr. Ezzat Abdallah Ahmad
President, Assiut University
Assiut, 71515 Egypt
Fax: +20-2-088-312-564 or 088-342-708
Dr. Ahmad al-Tayyeb
President, al-Azhar University
Nasr City, Cairo, Egypt