A young French student from a Parisian university was deported from Egypt last Friday after being arrested by security forces, in apparent relation to her research on the 6 April youth movement.
The student, who wishes to be known by ‘Fanny’, attends a course of political sociology at the School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences (EHESS) in Paris. She says herself and a friend were staying in the Nile Delta city of Damietta to interview members of the movement for her master’s degree when on 2 July a unit of 10 police and intelligence officers arrested Fanny from her hotel room during the night.
Fanny said that, after her arrest, she was taken to Damietta police station where she stayed for four hours while officers examined her computer, phone and bags. The student was accompanied by military, police, and intelligence officers in a minibus to Cairo, where they had her visa cancelled at the Mogamma El-Tahrir government services building.
After purchasing a plane ticket, Fanny was driven to Cairo International Airport where she spent the evening in a ‘deportation department’.
“I think I was arrested because I was noticed in Damietta and they wondered why I was there. It is a small city, everything is known. But I feel when they did arrest me they knew exactly what I was doing and that I was in touch with 6 April,” Fanny told Daily News Egypt on Tuesday. She believes she was known to Egypt’s security authorities long before the night of the arrest.
“There was already a French translator with them, who was there from the beginning when I was arrested from my room. They only asked questions about me, not about the movement, as if they already knew about what I was researching,” the student said.
“I was surprised to be arrested because I am only a 2nd year master’s student, but also I am not surprised because of the situation in Egypt, and 6 April is a banned movement. The only reason that I was told by those who arrested me was ‘we are arresting you for your own security’,” she told Daily News Egypt.
The 6 April movement was a key pro-democratic protest force during the 25 January Revolution and subsequent demonstrations. However, following a crackdown on activism after the July 2013 regime change, the movement was largely driven underground, and in 2014 it was outlawed entirely.
Attempts to get comments from the Ministry of Interior on the nature of the student’s arrest were not successful.
Daily News Egypt spoke to a press officer at the French Embassy in Cairo who said that she had no information about the case.
Fanny said that the French embassy got in touch with her, after her friend who was staying in the hotel informed them of her arrest. “They asked me what I was doing and then told me ‘I hope you have enough money for a flight or you will be spending a night in prison’,” she said.
According to the student, no diplomatic representatives met her in person to directly speak with her. Following the arrest, Egyptian authorities allowed her to receive two calls, but she was denied the right to call her embassy.
“I do not really feel like I received any support at all from the French embassy, they just do not want any trouble I guess, maybe they thought it was my own fault. I am still trying to get in touch with them to find out the reason why I was deported, or at least the official one, but they keep evading me,” she said. “I don’t think I will be able to come back to Egypt, maybe in 10 years. They do not want journalists and researchers to put their noses in.”
In June, the correspondent of a leading Spanish daily newspaper El Pais was forced to make an emergency departure from Egypt on advice that local authorities were preparing to arrest him. Ricard Gonzalez said he was “forced to leave Egypt against [his] will”, on advice from Spanish authorities that Egypt was preparing to bring charges against him, though this was denied by Egypt.
Also in June, director of the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms Mohamed Lotfy had his passport confiscated and was prevented from travelling to Germany, where he was due to speak at a parliament discussion on the human rights situation in Egypt. The denial of travel by Egyptian authorities took place the same day that President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi began an official visit to Germany.