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Egypt: University students vs the state - Daily News Egypt

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Egypt: University students vs the state

By Reem Khorshid As I chose to major in Architectural Engineering one year after studying there, I started appreciating Cairo University’s historic campus even more. Although the School of Engineering has a separate modern campus, I used to take walks around the main campus to enjoy the majestic classic dome, famous clock tower, the Obelisk at …

Reem Khorshid
Reem Khorshid

By Reem Khorshid

As I chose to major in Architectural Engineering one year after studying there, I started appreciating Cairo University’s historic campus even more. Although the School of Engineering has a separate modern campus, I used to take walks around the main campus to enjoy the majestic classic dome, famous clock tower, the Obelisk at its entrance and their surroundings. The European-inspired university and its picturesque gardens do represent a major part of Egypt’s culture and civilisation. It’s a place where vast swathes of the youth unite with their differences, yet are all given their rights to express themselves, and above all, their right to learn.

Last year, I wasn’t granted a safe environment to have a proper education. I stopped taking my random walks and started to look for ways to get back home without getting myself killed. The situation was extremely catastrophic – students had to deal with clashes and casualties on a daily basis. We would be peacefully sitting inside our classes when suddenly everyone would be suffocating from the effects of teargas. We would run outside to an open area to gasp some fresh air, but we find ourselves welcomed with birdshot bullets and more teargas with the security locking up the campus.

Our colleague, Mohamed Reda, died in front of our eyes as we were trying to escape the deadly attacks between security and protesting students, but found the gates closed, so that even the ambulance couldn’t get in to save Reda’s life.

I remember the day when I had to wait until 7pm to get back home when we were subjected to a terrorist bombing attack which took place few metres from the class’s windows. I live nearby but couldn’t find a safe road to walk back through.

Getting used to all of this, at some point we had to sit for our final exams while hearing bullets being shot outside the windows and smelling the teargas. It felt like living inside a warzone where everybody checks on their friends at the end of every day to make sure they’re safe, especially when the situation reached the point where live bullets reached our classrooms at the 5th floor, leaving two students injured. All of this made it so hard for me to see the exquisite picture of this breathtaking campus which became blurred with teargas and appalled students.

This year, the academic year will start and I don’t think I will be able to take my favourite walks anymore, especially after the administration banned students who study in separate campuses, such as engineering, pharmacy and medical students, from entering the main campus unless they have errands to do there. Also, they enclosed the entire university with a fence, screening the scenery of the greens and obscuring the spectacular campus.

The government’s concerns against university students have become disastrous since last year. Substantial policy shifts were made prior to the new academic year has started on  11 October. The new enforced policies include banning all the politically-affiliated student groups or any political activities in campus, banning wearing any uniform with political slogans, and students will be asked to provide a criminal record. The strictest policy comes through limiting the freedom of speech and expelling students who chant abusive words about the President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi – this will be imposed by using infiltrators among the students to spy for the state. We will also be forced to sign a statement of agreement upon all these drastic alterations, and any student who refuses to sign it will be exposed to sanctions. All these policies are to be implemented during the coming semester with the presence of security forces inside the campus.

It has clearly become political and drifted far from being only security measures, proving the state’s fear of university students who represent a quarter of the Egyptian population. Students, including politically neutral ones, are driven with anger after knowing about the state’s ways of inflicting dictatorial methods on the students who started to spot only one enemy in the whole picture of Egypt. I know many students who are politically indifferent, yet chose the road of “my friend’s enemy is my enemy,” picking the Muslim Brotherhood’s side. The state and the security forces keep failing every time they try to contain the rage of students, which will clearly be inevitable after the imposed restrictions that threaten their freedom of speech and expression. The government and university administration keep taking all the wrong choices against students who are already bristling with anger before their semester even begins.

Despite all of the enforced confinements and black walls built around Cairo University, it remains a second home to its students who would still battle to win. The walls and barbed-wire could be everywhere, but it won’t cease our attempts to express ourselves by decorating our campus walls with graffiti of our colleagues who were killed during conflicts. Last year, we drew graffiti of our colleagues on the walls as a reminder for everyone that we still remember it all very well. This is what they fear the most, and this is why they fear us. We don’t forget.

The new academic year will kick off soon with many security forces besieging the grandeur of the campus, yet it remains the same behind the bulwarks. The new academic year will start, and soon I will take my walks around this place.

Reem Khorshid is an Egyptian activist, blogger and a student at Cairo University. She writes for different publications. She tweets at @ReemKhorshid.

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  • Reda Sobky

    The title of the piece is a false dichotomy. There is no opposition between the Egyptian state and students. Actually, students are the beneficiaries of the support of the state which funds and keeps those institutions alive and active. If the students as a group threaten the state and advocate its overthrow through violent means and align themselves with the deposed and their terrorist allies, watch out! Being a student is not a profession, it is a stage and I don’t’ know how much time you have left but it is not very long before you graduate. Speaking of students as a societal group or class is an error as students have political interests across the political spectrum and are not monolithic. If they become captured by a single group and mobilized to carry out the agenda of this group they as a group become susceptible to sanctions by the state to shake this categorical opposition as it will have been hijacked as the deposed did based on the “tamkeen” plan. Your analysis needs to be deeper and more critical than this after all you are an educated person.

  • Al Masry

    A slave to old traditions and hijab like you has NO right to ask for freedom. You go back in history and live in the 14th Century when people believed Earth is flat. Tahya Misr free of backward people. Shame on you!

    • Illuminati

      You alright buddy? You seem to be getting carried away, and more importantly, you are promoting bigotry and hate. You, yes I mean you, do not define who can or cannot have their freedom. Freedom is for everyone and anyone who demands it, not something you selectively bestow upon others.

      • Al Masry

        I believe in Freedom of many good things from speech to religions. But, I oppose to freedom to kill, destroy, living on the past delusion and superstitions. The rowdt students whose sole intention is to destroy and even kill other should have no freedom to do it. I wear head cover and used against sandstorms in Sahara. It has nothing to do with religion fade. Tahya Misr free from religious extremists.

        • Illuminati

          “A slave to old traditions and hijab like you has NO right to ask for freedom” Not sure how this is supposed to show your deep rooted belief in freedom of religion. Also, at no point in this article did the author advocate “freedom to kill” since there is no such freedom anyways. The article contends that the carelessness of security personnel and their excessive use of forces increases dissent and radicalizes neutral students.

          • Al Masry

            It is civil disobedience that threaten our institutions and its personnel. The police worldwide is trained on how to deal with the curd of scum. Using a bamboo stick may be justified against those rowdy extremists. Tahya Misr, Allah AKber.

    • bob+++

      all egypt is going to leave says the god of the christians

  • Al Masry

    With this non-Islamic dress and hijab; it is sad to see half of Egyptians looks like potato sacks.

  • Al Masry

    Violence in compasses has nothing to do with freedom of speech, etc. It is criminal acts by extremists against our learning institutions dummies. Tahya Misr free of extremists and fanatics.

  • Bystander

    Isn’t it time to move on from the Morsi era and for all Egyptians – regardless of political and personal views – to take pride in their country and stop destroying it? If strong measures are needed to combat more violence and more uprisings, then do it – better that than uncontrolled, outrageous anger. Your beautiful, ancient country has survived many wars, many rulers, produced some amazing intelligent people … but this is now 2014 and an opportunity for a new start. Let the holidaying tourists return safely to a bustling environment, helping build Egypt’s economy a little and bring everything to life again – without fear. Students and young people with intelligence and caring, will mould your country to a super place … don’t waste the opportunity on stupidity

    • Mohammed Zaki

      Egyptians don’t destroy their beloved country by speaking up for their democratic rights to freedom, they spoil it by their neglect of the environment, careless pollution as they drop garbage everywhere, don’t respect pedestrians, women on the streets, noisy behaviour, rip-off tourists and so on. Start to change these habits and tourism will flourish again, don’t stop standing up for our rights.

  • AzzaSedky

    Protesting is one thing; destructing is another. Tell the students that their rights will be protected if they don’t behave like hooligans. Hooliganism will be confront with similar behaviour.

    This is what students did last year; tell me that security should have looked the other way and told them them to continue. http://azzasedky.typepad.com/egypt/2013/10/reporting-from-cairo.html

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