The nation is on the verge of failing; terrorist acts have become everyday events and losing loved ones has become an all-too-real threat; corruption and crime lurk in the wings…there appears no end in sight for the daily struggle.
The chief perpetrators are supporters of the Muslim Brothers (MB) who are using outlaw activity to attempt to restore their regime—or penalise Egyptians for rejecting it.
The most recent MB terrorism has targeted Egypt’s universities. Ahead of all others in the incidence of violence has been the Islamic al-Azhar University, with Mansoura, Ain Shams, and Cairo universities coming in close behind.
The way to Allah
Samira Luxori, a student at Mansoura University, complains that universities are lacking in security. “The acts of violence at al-Azhar,” she says, “have been perpetrated by Islamist terrorists who use sharia to cloak the ugly face they revealed after the fall of their regime.”
One al-Azhar student, Abdel-Rahman Diab, told Watani: “This is our jihad and our way to Allah. We will be compensated in heaven because all these students are defending the MB President Muhammad Mursi who upheld Islam.” He claimed that students did not start with acts of violence, but were dragged into the situation by the university management. In this he was alluding to the fact that the management did not accept demonstrations on campus, even if they were non-violent.
A report by the rights organisation the International Development Centre cited 24 incidents of violence inside Egyptian universities in the space of the five weeks between 1 September and 6 October. The violence, according to the report, accompanied student protests which were politically motivated. “The violence reflects the political scene in Egypt, dominated by unprecedented hatred, division, and polarisation between two radically different political groups. One supports the so-called ‘legality’ of Muhammad Mursi and rejects what they brand a ‘military coup’, and the other supports the roadmap drawn by the civil forces in Egypt together with the military.”
Most Egyptian universities, the report cited, had to postpone the start of the academic year, with al-Azhar University starting as late as 19 October. Protest, however, sparked off.
Burning the trees
When al-Azhar administration called in the police after the protesting students held the dean hostage in his office, the students moved their protest to the university hostel. They set to fire the trees in front of the hostel, and some garbage that was waiting for collection. A number of students climbed to the rooftops of neighbouring buildings and hurled stones at the police and civilians on the street. The university guard caught several offenders and handed them over to the authorities.
The president of al-Azhar University, Usama al-Abd, announced that no more protest would be allowed on campus; anyone breaching the rule would be subject to disciplinary action. Dr Abd instructed all faculty members to summon the police instantly if any act of violence were committed or if they were assaulted.
Student union members responded to the board’s decree on the same day by calling on students to go on strike.
The violence continued, however, in view of a sizable portion of students who refused to go on strike. Last week, the dean of al-Azhar Faculty of Islamic Studies Mohga Ghalib sent out a cry for help to the police and military, since she had been assaulted by the female students who insisted on detaining her in her office. That same day, male students assaulted the university guards at the Faculty of Education, and broke the arm of a worker who had attempted to stop them from breaking into the main lecture hall to halt the lecture in there.
The university announced in a statement that it had banned 134 students from accessing its campus, on account of their participation in acts of violence. Disciplinary action is being taken against them, the statement said.
Cairo University, for its part, has taken steps to train its guards. The secretary-general Yusri Ibrahim said the 500 university guards had taken no action against opposing students except those who breached the rules and crossed peaceful lines. Two weeks ago a training programme was launched to improve the guards’ sense of security, communication skills and crisis management, and their physical abilities to protect people, buildings and documents.
Security problems in universities were discussed at the latest meeting of the Supreme Council of Universities. All the attendants agreed that security was the responsibility of the university president, and that he had the right to summon the police in case of outbreaks of violence. This does not mean, however, that the police could interfere at any time; only when invited by the university.
In 2011, a court ruling banned the police from guarding the universities. Rights activists had taken the case to court, in the context of guarding the independence of universities from any State influence. Ever since, universities have been guarded by private security companies.
30 November 2013