The Association of Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE) condemned the Ministry of Education for cooperating with the security apparatus in not allowing academics to travel without obtaining prior security authorisation.
Faculty of Science Professor Nabil Labib was banned from traveling outside of Egypt to supervise a student’s PhD dissertation.
Labib told AFTE that he went to the Ministry of Higher Education to submit the Cairo University approval for his request to travel to Hungary, where he is due to follow-up on supervising an Egyptian student’s PhD dissertation. There, he was told that he had to obtain approval from security forces before travelling.
Without security approval, Labib cannot get the Ministry of Higher Education’s approval for travel.
AFTE also expressed “extreme worry” at the continued interference of executive authorities and security apparatuses in universities, and their constraints on academic freedom.
AFTE expressed its view that this obligation of security service approval for academics and researchers before working abroad is a clear violation of Egyptian law, the constitution, and international conventions.
Amendment 21 in the Egyptian constitution reads that “the state shall guarantee the independence of universities”. Amendment 23 in the constitutions emphasises “the provision of freedom of scientific research and the encouragement of its institutions”.
The university, as an independent institution, should not be subjected to any control or pressure from the state or the security apparatus, the AFTE statement said.
This also means that academic and research work, inside and outside Egypt, “is only the concern of the academic community, universities, and research institutions”.
AFTE added that it is “unacceptable” to impose exceptions in the travel procedures of certain academics and researchers. In addition, there have been no judicial decisions banning Labib from travelling.
The association called on the Ministry of Higher Education to stop this procedure and not to involve the security apparatus, as their involvement hinders the pursuit of academic freedom.
Security forces’ on-campus presence and involvement has been on the rise for the past two years, although the severity of the crackdown was highest after the military ouster of former president Mohamed Morsi.
Academics accused of involvement or participation in on-campus political activities have been dismissed in accordance with the decree issued by President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi last January. In this decree Al-Sisi amended Law 45/192, which included provisions to dismiss university professors who participate in on-campus political party activities.
In a report released in March, AFTE noted an increase in the rate of threats, disciplinary procedures and referrals to administrative investigations against teaching staff. The report cited “at least four confirmed cases” of interventions into faculty’s academics and research by universities administrations.