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Al-Azhar protests continue in the face of academic discipline

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Students gear up to boycott next week’s final exams

Egyptian students of al-Azhar University who support the Muslim Brotherhood raise their hands showing the four-finger sign, called Rabaa (four) in Arabic, associated with the crackdown on supporters of ousted Islamist president Mohammed Morsi, during clashes with riot police in Cairo on December 10, 2013. Thirteen Egyptian and international human rights organisations urged Cairo's military-installed authorities to probe the mass killing of Islamist protesters in the capital on August 14.  (AFP PHOTO / KHALED KAMEL)

Egyptian students of al-Azhar University who support the Muslim Brotherhood raise their hands Rabaa (four) in Arabic, associated with the crackdown on supporters of ousted Islamist president Mohammed Morsi, during clashes with riot police in Cairo on December 10, 2013.
(AFP PHOTO / KHALED KAMEL)

More protests erupted on the restive Al-Azhar University campus on Monday over news that university president Osama Ali has referred around 350 students to disciplinary boards since demonstrations began the first week of the semester.

Female student protesters tore down posted exam seating charts at several faculties across the Al-Azhar campus in an attempt to boycott finals scheduled to start 28 December, according to state-run Al-Ahram.  Males in the Faculty of Agricultural Engineering shouted slogans against the military, interrupting an oral exam.

According to the official Facebook page of the Al-Azhar Student Union, who support the boycott, university security attempted to disperse student protesters at the Faculty of Humanities using fire extinguishers, water cannons, and clubs.

“The university has halted student activities, and is creating fear amongst the students for practicing their rights,” said Ahmed Noor Al-Din, Al-Azhar student who works for rights group Association for Free Thought and Expression.

Students from Al-Azhar, Cairo, Mansoura, Alexandria, Minya, Menoufia and Zagazig universities have held demonstrations since the beginning of the academic year. In many cases, the protests have turned into violent stand-offs with security forces.  Scores of protesters have been injured or arrested and at least two have been killed.

In addition to arrests, Al-Azhar student demonstrators have faced academic discipline including two year suspension and expulsions.

Ali guaranteed that exams would take place as scheduled, despite protesters’ attempts at disruption.  He also thanked Prime Minister Hazem El-Beblawi for the government’s financial and security support at the university.

The demands of students supporting the boycott include the release of all students in police custody, an investigation into the 21 November death of student protester Abdel Ghany Mahmoud, the cancelation of university disciplinary action against protesters, and the return of student activities.

Security forces were first allowed into Al-Azhar University after violence erupted on university campus on 30 October.

Shortly afterwards, El-Beblawi announced that police forces would be present at the gates of all public universities to help maintain security. El-Beblawi’s cabinet gave university presidents the right to request the entry of police forces into campus in case of “threats to individuals, property or students.”

About the author

Aaron T. Rose

Aaron T. Rose is an American journalist in Cairo. Follow him on Twitter: @Aaron_T_Rose


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