2020 Academic Freedom Award Goes to Dr. Laila Soueif of Cairo University

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For immediate release on
October 15, 2020

Contact: Yasmin Hamidi
[email protected]

2020 Academic Freedom Award Goes to
Dr. Laila Soueif of Cairo University

Eight Other Awards Presented for Outstanding Books, Service,
Mentoring, Dissertation, and Student Paper

Washington, DC — The Middle East Studies Association (MESA), a nonprofit organization that advances understanding of the region by connecting and supporting thousands of scholars around the world, presented nine awards to 10 academics hailing from universities in the United States, Egypt, England, France, and Germany at its annual meeting this week. The prestigious Academic Freedom Award was presented to Dr. Laila Soueif of Cairo University for her role in organizing students and faculty to protect their rights, as well as the human rights of all Egyptians, including by co-founding the March 9 Movement for University Autonomy in Egypt that helped lay a foundation for the 2011 revolution that ousted former President Hosni Mubarak.

When asked about her decades-long involvement in political organizing earlier this year, Dr. Soueif responded: “I’ve learned during my life that if there’s something where you don’t have an option, you just do it the best way you can. I mean, long training, long training, long training. You translate things to actual actions. You don’t think about — you don’t sit down and think about the consequences. You don’t sit down and think about the years that are flying by. You just translate it into practical tasks, and you finish the tasks. ... I’m still a university professor, I still teach, but I haven’t managed to do research for years now. You sort of are forced into becoming a full-time human rights activist, which we actually are not.”

A total of nine awards were presented to 10 individuals at this year’s Award Ceremony:

The full list, including honorable mentions, may be found online here.

“Those of us working and studying at universities are living in very challenging times,” said MESA President Dr. Dina Rizk Khoury, a professor at The George Washington University. “These awards recognize the distinguished scholarship and service of our members as it does the courageous struggles of people of the Middle East in defending their rights to academic freedom. The coronavirus pandemic has only underscored what we already know — that our world is in desperate need of our creativity, knowledge, and capacity to take action.”

For interviews or more information, contact Yasmin Hamidi at [email protected]. Press passes for #MESA2020, which takes place online this year and concludes Oct. 17, are also available.


The Middle East Studies Association (MESA) is a non-profit association that fosters the study of the Middle East, promotes high standards of scholarship and teaching, and encourages public understanding of the region and its peoples through programs, publications and services.

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