‘Worst era for Egypt’s students’: Students air grievances at ECRF conference
Security Forces At Cairo University - YOUM7/Hussien Tallal

CAIRO:  “Students will stop protesting on the day they see Egypt as they dream of it: a country that respects its people and itself, a country without totalitarianism,” Mohamed Badawy, an expelled engineering student at Cairo University said at a Monday press conference.

Some 371 university students have been arrested, 135 expelled and one killed since the academic term began in October, the Egyptian Commission on Rights and Freedoms (ECRF) announced at a news conference it held at the Hisham Mubarak Law Center in Cairo to release its report “Students on the Horns of a Dilemma: Security and Legislation.”

“The fact that five students who graduated last year and the year before have been expelled means that Cairo University has a list of students to expel to satisfy certain parties,” Badawy told The Cairo Post.

In the academic year of 2013/2014, 19 students were killed at university protests, 2,037 were arrested and 600 were expelled, according to the report.

A number of those detained since October were arrested from their homes even before academic study began, and others suffered “enforced disappearance” because their families only knew about their whereabouts at police stations weeks later, researcher and report author Hussein Abdel Salam said.

Badawy also told The Cairo Post that Cairo University expels students “to prove to the Ministry of Interior that it dismisses students who violate the rules.”

Moreover, Badawy claimed that students who work as “agents for the police” report their colleagues, and that is how they are “targeted. “

Head of the “University for Students” campaign Noura al-Sayed, who is a student of archaeology at Cairo University and a member of the Revolutionary Socialists, said that the university “does not allow any form of objections, be it political or administrative.”

“A group of students had certain administrative demands within their department. They protested peacefully outside the Faculty of Archeology to voice their concerns. Ten of them were forced to sign a statement promising that they would not demonstrate again, or they would be referred to investigation and possibly expelled,” Sayed said at the ECHR’s panel.

“To the administration of the [Cairo] University: you are the mouthpieces of the authorities… this is the worst era for Egypt’s students,” Sayed added.

“There is a list of offenses at universities; everything from holding a sign with an opposition slogan to assaulting someone is treated the same way. Penalties are incommensurate with violations,” Adalah Center for Rights and Freedoms head Amr Kilany told The Cairo Post.

Kilany noted that several of the students who were arrested last year have not been referred to trial yet, and often not allowed to take their university exams in prison.

New laws change legal landscape

In October, the Cabinet passed a law to be enforced for two years, stipulating that the military may secure public facilities with the police, and thus those arrested by the military or for damaging public utilities would be tried militarily.

Five Al-Azhar University students were referred to the military prosecution by Cairo Criminal Court Sunday because they are charged with setting a public facility on fire.

Egyptian activists have vigorously protested military trials for civilians since the January 25 Revolution in 2011. More than 11,000 civilians have been tried in military tribunals since that time, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW.)

“This new decree is pernicious and contrary to basic standards of justice,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, HRW Middle East and North Africa director, in a Monday statement, adding “Egypt’s authorities should annul all the military court verdicts against civilians handed down since the new government took power, and President Sisi needs to act quickly to amend his decree.”

“Its absurdly broad provisions mean that many more civilians who engage in protests can now expect to face trial before uniformed judges subject to the orders of their military superiors,” she said.

Public utilities have been under consistent attacks since the military ouster of Islamist President Mohamed Morsi in July 2013. Public transportation, high pressure towers, power transformers, water plants, and several other state-owned services have been targeted.

ECRF Researcher Abdel Salam condemned a June law empowering the president to appoint and expel the heads of universities and faculties, and also condemned the searching of Cairo University’s dorms, describing it as a “breach of privacy.”

Further, groups of political or partisan nature were not allowed inside Cairo University. Abdel Salam claimed that the subsidized dorms of public university disallow the accommodation of leading students.

ECRF singles out cases of abuse

Law student Mohamed Ramadan, 19, died Sunday at Hadayeq el-Qobba police station in Cairo, 10 days after his arrest. He had called his family to tell them he was “very sick,” Kilany said. Ramadan’s family has reported his death to the prosecution, demanding to reveal whether he died of torture.

The ECRF documented two cases were the police arrested a family member of wanted students if they were not found at their homes during police raids.

The father of Ashraf Abdel Wahab, a senior student at the Faculty of Agriculture, University of Fayoum, was arrested from the family home as junior Abdel Wahab was not there.

On Oct. 12, the police arrested the brother of Mohamed Atef, the acting head of the student union at Al-Azhar University, from the family home without a warrant after they did not find Atef. They charged Atef’s brother of partaking in student groups that incite violence, but later released him, ECRF’s report stated.

On Oct. 14, security forces raided the Faculty of Engineering, University of Alexandria where over 26 students were injured. The police reportedly stormed the lecture rooms where students fled and ordered them to put their hands over their heads.

Omar el-Sherif, a sophomore in the Faculty of Law at the same university, was injured in the skull and the eyes by dozens of birdshot. He died blind on Oct. 21 of his wounds.

Amnesty International released an Oct. 18 statement on the Alexandria violence, saying that the students were “peaceful” until the police launched a crackdown with “excessive force” on the Faculty of Engineering.

Students who witnessed the raid have reported sexual harassment and slapping of female students, as well as random beatings and excessive tear gas and birdshot.

ECRF demanded that Sherif’s death be investigated and to bring perpetrators to justice, as the police is trying to fabricate the crime against his own friends.

It also demanded that students who protested peacefully be released and laws restrictive of academic freedoms be reviewed, and that security forces exercise restraint while dealing with protests.

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