His Excellency Abdel Fattah al-Sisi
President, Arab Republic of Egypt
Chancellor Hamada El-Sawy
Office of the Public Prosecutor
Prime Solicitor-General Khaled Diauddin
Supreme State Security Prosecution in the Arab Republic of Egypt
Dear President al-Sisi, Chancellor El-Sawy and Prime Solicitor-General Diauddin,
We write to you on behalf of the Committee on Academic Freedom of the Middle East Studies Association (MESA) of North America to express our concern at the continued travel restrictions imposed on Waleed Khalil el-Sayed Salem (also spelled Walid), a Ph.D. candidate in the department of Political Science at the University of Washington. Mr. Salem, who was never formally charged with a crime, has been prevented from leaving Egypt since at least May 2020. He has tried since May 2020 to challenge the travel ban in court, but to no avail.
MESA was founded in 1966 to support 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 2800 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.
We have previously written to you three times about Mr. Salem’s case: first on 6 July 2018 regarding his arrest and imprisonment and then on 14 August 2019 regarding probationary measures imposed upon his release from pre-trial detention. Most recently, we wrote on 4 November 2020 regarding the travel ban. At the time, Mr. Salem had been prevented from leaving Egypt, after the expiry of those probationary measures, for six months and separated from his daughter for nearly three years. We are distraught to learn that he is still unable to be with his daughter or continue his studies. Despite repeated efforts over several months, Mr. Salem has been unable to seek substantive relief through the Cairo Appeals Court, the court designated to hear travel-ban cases. With no access to redress, Mr. Salem is unable to make personal or professional plans. He continues to live in fear.
As we noted previously, Mr. Salem’s dissertation research on Egyptian judges and lawyers contributes to a long tradition of eminent scholarship on the Egyptian judiciary and poses no harm to Egyptian interests. The ongoing restrictions on students like Mr. Salem threaten the robust scholarly exchange between the United States and Egypt. Such restrictions violate the rights of freedom of movement, as well as association and expression, as enshrined in both international and Egyptian law.
We strongly urge you to turn your attention to Mr. Salem’s case and restore his freedom of movement so he may reunite with his daughter and continue his studies.
We look forward to your prompt response.
Eve Troutt Powell
Professor, University of Pennsylvania
Chair, Committee on Academic Freedom
Professor Emerita, University of Southern California
Dr. Hanafi Gebali, Speaker, Egyptian Parliament
Motaz Zahran, Ambassador, Embassy of Egypt, Washington, D.C.
Jonathan R. Cohen, Ambassador, U.S. Embassy, Cairo, Egypt
Mohamed Fathi Ahmed Edrees, Permanent Representative of Egypt to the UN
Amb. Moushira Khattab, President, National Council for Human Rights, Cairo, Egypt
Mohamad Anwar El-Sadat, President, Reform and Development Party, Egypt
The Honorable Verónica Michelle Bachelet Jeria, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
The Honorable Mary Lawlor, UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders
Maria Arena, Chair of the European Parliament Subcommittee on Human Rights
Viktor Almqvist, Press Officer for the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the European Parliament
Dunja Mijatović, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights
Kati Piri, Member, Committee on Foreign Affairs, European Parliament
Irene Khan, UN Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression
Yael Lempert, Acting Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, Department of State, United States Government
Philip McDaniel, Foreign Policy Advisor: Congressman Tom Malinowski (NJ-7), Member of Egypt Human Rights Caucus
Nancy Chen, Legislative Fellow: Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA), Member of Egypt Human Rights Caucus
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