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Political activities banned on university campuses

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Decision is met with various reactions from student unions and political movements

Azhar University students protest on November 2013. (Photo by Mohamed Omar\File)

Azhar University students protest on November 2013.
(Photo by Mohamed Omar\File)

By Aya Nader

The Egyptian Supreme Council of Universities decided on Saturday to ban the organisation of any political activities in support of presidential candidates on campus.

The decision came as a result of efforts to avoid increasing tensions between students.

“This is not an excuse,” said Mohamed Abdel Salam, researcher at the Student Observatory of the Association of Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE). Banning these activities altogether is not the way to go, and instead, there should be organised discussions, he added.

According to Abdel Salam, such decisions are “illogical” and “not responsible”.

“This is against the rights and freedoms of students… Everyone has the right to express [support for] a preferred candidate and be socially and politically active,” he stated.

The Cairo University student union issued a statement supporting this decision, saying that it “will not allow any political side to use the university [as a platform] or drag it[into political conflicts] like other universities ” , adding that whoever violates this decision will be punished.

The statement said: “Any activity or announcement that aims to publicise any parliamentary, presidential or political candidate will be prohibited.”

Misr Al-Qawia Party (Strong Egypt party) spokesman Ahmed Imam expressed his opposition to the decision: “It takes us back to the poisoned environment that was present before the 25January [Revolution],”adding that he refused the notion of constricting students. “I am not [for] political parties campaigning inside the university, but students have the right to express their opinions.”

March 9 member Hany Al-Hosseiny said the decision was a logical one: “This is not the role of the university. There should be cultural not political and political campaigning activities.”

The 2013 fall semester had witnessed violence in several universities in Egypt. Security forces had clashed in January with Students Against the Coup (SAC) in Cairo, Al-Azhar, and Zagazig universities. Twenty-six Al-Azhar students were sentenced to two and a half years in prison with hard labour. SAC calculated the number of  detained Al-Azhar University students to be 230.


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