A group of Al-Azhar students clashed with security forces on Sunday after a staged protest denouncing the death and arrest of several Al-Azhar students turned violent.
Al-Azhar students’ protests began on Saturday to voice their rejection of the “military coup” which led to the unseating of former President Mohamed Morsi.
Students rallied outside the administrative building of Al-Azhar University on Sunday before they began moving outside the university campus. Mohamed Ali, one of the protesting students, said some of the protesters wanted to head to the Rabaa Al-Adaweya intersection where a large pro-Morsi encampment that was set up since 28 June was violently dispersed on 14 August.
“We found military personnel blocking Al-Nasr road,” Ali said, adding that military personnel are usually present around that area. “Some personnel fired shots into the air. We decided against heading for Rabaa to avoid clashes.”
Ali stated that a Central Security Forces (CSF) vehicle arrived at the scene before the students decided to head back inside the campus. “We had delivered our message; we were done,” Ali added.
Protesters then stood outside the main university gate for a while, Ali claimed, only to find a couple of CSF vehicles moving towards them. Ali claimed one student pelted a rock at the security forces; a move which triggered the firing of teargas at students. Ali claimed security forces chased students and attacked them with teargas and birdshots inside the campus.
“I saw them with my own eyes,” Ali said. “Security personnel were firing teargas canisters inside the university campus. Who allowed security forces to storm a university campus?”
Ahmed Noor Al-Din, Al-Azhar student who works with the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE), claimed security forces entered university campus only momentarily. He added that they fired teargas into the campus while they were physically outside.
Ali said that students responded to security forces’ attacks by pelting rocks at them. He claimed that some security personnel dressed in civilian clothes attacked students with batons and arrested them.
The Ministry of Interior, meanwhile, said in a statement released on Sunday that a group of around 3,000 Al-Azhar students blocked the Al-Nasr road amid anti-regime chants. It accused the student protesters of attacking security forces with rocks and setting a trash bin ablaze outside the university. It claimed security forces only fired teargas at the student protesters after it held discussions with them for half an hour, trying to get them to clear the roads.
The ministry stated it arrested a number of students and succeeded in dispersing the rally and driving the protesters back inside the university campus, therefore opening the blocked road. It denied storming the campus and called on students to “stick to peaceful means of expressing their opinions and refrain from stalling public institutions and threatening citizens’ safety and security.”
Ahmed Al-Ansary, head of the Egyptian Ambulance Authority, told state-run news agency MENA on Sunday evening that the clashes left no injuries behind.
Al-Azhar students had also gathered outside the university administration’s building on Saturday, calling for the ouster of the current military-installed regime as well as the resignation of Al-Azhar University chairman Osama Al-Abd.
Protesting students had also condemned the stance of Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Ahmed Al-Tayeb, who supported the military ouster of Morsi. Students moved from the university administration’s building to the university’s main gate. They then moved outside, blocking Tayaran, Youssef Abbass and Al-Nasr streets temporarily.