MESA Academic Freedom Award
Dr. Laila Soueif is a professor in the Department of Mathematics at Cairo University. A respected professor known for her dedication to her students and to the highest standards of scholarship, she has also been an activist since her days as a university student. Over the years, she has been a part of numerous movements among faculty members in Egyptian universities aimed at raising their status, protecting the teaching profession, and enhancing academic exchange among scholars across disciplines. She has also long been a passionate supporter of student movements at the university and a courageous defender of them against administrative violations and state repression. Furthermore, she has been a staunch defender of political prisoners, among them, many academics.
Dr. Soueif is perhaps best known as one of the key founders of the March 9 Movement for University Autonomy in Egypt, a group that has been active through conferences, protests and other engagements in defending academic freedom and the independence of the university, and which thereby also played a role in paving the road to the 2011 revolution.
Her involvements have included membership in other organizations that have sought to expand social dignity, document the repressive reality of contemporary Egypt, and nonviolently resist state violence -- even as such violence has too often targeted her and her family.
Laila Soueif has always insisted that academic freedom is part and parcel of respect for human and civil rights. As a member of a family of prominent activists, she has consistently used her platform to advocate for these rights. While no one person can be said to embody the Egyptian people’s struggle against social, economic and political repression, Laila Soueif and her tireless work in defense of academic freedom, human rights and dignity are exemplary of a deep commitment that refuses to acquiesce in injustice.
CAF is honored to recognize Dr. Laila Soueif’s decades of courageous activism with its Academic Freedom Award for 2020.