In view of recent developments in Egypt, the MESA Board feels compelled to alert those considering traveling to Egypt for research and study—as well as those who are based in country—about a sharp escalation in the nature of threats to those studying and conducting research in Egypt. Many of these threats come from official bodies whose task would seem to be to work to provide a safe environment for study and research.
For months, the MESA Board has noted that our Committee on Academic Freedom (CAF) has been documenting the increasing number and scope of attacks on freedom of expression and academic freedom in Egypt. CAF has repeatedly written to express its concern regarding violations that include, but are not limited to:
- the denial of entry to the country and harassment of numerous scholars and researchers;
- gross state interference in university student and faculty governance;
- the dismissals and expulsions from universities of hundreds of students and faculty;
- the sentencing of academics to death
The growth of violence and repression against academics and associated researchers in Egypt has now reached its tragically predictable outcome with the murder of University of Cambridge Ph.D. student Giulio Regeni. On February 3, 2016, Regeni, in Egypt to conduct doctoral research while affiliated with the American University in Cairo, was found dead by the side of the road to the west of the capital. While Egyptian authorities state they are investigating the death, indications are that he was abducted and then tortured to death.
As the elected representatives of MESA, the preeminent association of scholars of the region, and as advisors and mentors to graduate and other students, we now feel it is incumbent upon us to issue a special alert to academics and researchers of all levels and backgrounds who are considering conducting research in Egypt.
We believe there is reason for serious concern regarding anyone’s ability to carry out research safely. Our concern is for both non-Egyptians going to Egypt and Egyptian colleagues; with Egyptian and non-Egyptian students; and with those whom we may seek to collaborate or involve in our research. We therefore urge all of our colleagues to reflect carefully and exercise extreme caution in considering research or study-related travel to Egypt for themselves and their students.
At the same time, we stress MESA’s continuing commitment through CAF to investigate academic freedom violations in Egypt, to work vigorously to draw attention to these violations, to write letters of protest about these violations to the relevant Egyptian authorities, and in all ways possible and appropriate to support our Egyptian colleagues who are on the front lines in the ongoing battle to defend this basic right.
For its part, the MESA Board offers its condolences to the family and friends of Giulio Regeni; joins others in demanding a full, honest, and transparent investigation into the circumstances of his death; strongly supports the work of CAF; and resolves to remain apprised of the academic environment in Egypt and to update its members about significant developments in that regard.