MESA Academic Freedom Award
Association of Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE)
MESA cited in particular the work of AFTE in defending the rights of university students and professors and in documenting abuses in the face of increasing intimidation, harassment and violence against members of the academic community who have criticized the laws, policies and practices of the Egyptian government since 30 June 2013.
AFTE activists seek to reinforce freedom of expression and related rights in Egypt so that they may be practiced in a context of tolerance and acceptance. Its Academic Freedom and Student's Rights Program supports the academic freedom of both faculty members and students, including freedom of association, freedom of expression, freedom of peaceful assembly, the right to participate in managing their own affairs, and the right to fair and just disciplinary board hearings in the case of violations. It offers direct and indirect support to student initiatives aimed at securing the principles of a free student movement, as well as legal support to victims of violations in the academic community. Just as important, it has been key in monitoring and documenting developments inside Egyptian universities, not only in the field of freedom of expression, but also regarding such fundamental issues such as the universities' autonomy, the economics of higher education, and the problems facing scientific research in Egypt.
The deterioration of academic freedom at Egyptian universities has been particularly striking since 30 June 2013. “Since the removal of President Muhammad Mursi, CAF has issued 6 letters protesting a range of violations: the deaths of at least 16 students during protests on campuses, the firing of professors and the expulsion of hundreds of students accused, often with little or no evidence, of participating in violent protests, the targeting of high profile academics with no connection to the Brotherhood but who have openly opposed various government policies, and changes in laws concerning a range of issues related to university governance that reverse gains achieved in the immediate wake of the 2011 Revolution,” said CAF Chair Laurie Brand. “We view with extreme concern all of these manifestations of assaults on academic freedom and university life in post June 30 Egypt. It is our hope that in choosing ATFE to receive the CAF academic freedom award this year we not only make clear our strong support for the courageous work in which ATFE’s members are engaged, but also underline our ongoing concern about the serious deterioration of conditions surrounding learning, teaching and academic inquiry in Egypt’s universities.”