Hearings, suspensions, and arrests of university student activists

His Excellency Muhammad Husni Mubarak

President, Arab Republic of Egypt

`Abdin Palace 

Cairo, 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: 

  1. The Law School Dean at Assiut University has suspended two student members of Kifaya for one month.  
  2. 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.  
  3. 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). 
  4. Three Ikhwan students at Fayoum University were re-arrested on 10/25 aft er  prosecutors had released them the previous day.  
  5. 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.  
  6. 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.  
  7. 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. 


Zachary Lockman 

MESA President 


Dr. Hany Mahfouz Helal,  

 Minister of Higher Education 

 101 Kasr al-Aini St. 

 Fax: +20-2-794-1005 


His Excellency Nabil Fahmy  

Ambassador of the Arab Republic of Egypt 

Fax: +20-2-244-4319 

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 

Abbasiyya, 11566 

Cairo, Egypt 

Fax: +20-2-684-7824 


Dr. Hosam Eddine Mohammad El-Attar 

President, Banha University 

Qalyoubiyya, Egypt 


Dr. Ali Abdel Rahman Youssef 

President, Cairo University 

Midan al-Gami’a 

Giza, Egypt 


Dr. Abd al-Hayy Ebeid 

President, Helwan University 

Ain Helwan  

Cairo, Egypt 

Fax: +20-2-556-5820 


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 

Fax: +20-2-261-1404 

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