MESA - Middle East Studies Association

Letters on Egypt

18 February 2014

Adel Abd al-Hameed
Minister of Justice
Lazoghly Square, Ministry of Justice
Cairo
Arab Republic of Egypt

by fax: 20 2 795 8103
by e-mail: mjustice@moj.gov.eg

Your Excellency,

I write to you on behalf of the Committee on Academic Freedom of the Middle East Studies Association (MESA) to express our strong objection to the recent criminal charge levelled against Dr. Amr Hamzawy, a professor at Cairo University and the American University in Cairo, former parliamentarian, and prominent liberal intellectual, of insulting the Egyptian judiciary in a tweet he posted last June.  This baseless charge seems to be part of an emerging pattern of government actions aimed at silencing any expressions of opposition or dissent. 

MESA was founded in 1966 to promote scholarship and teaching on the Middle East and North Africa. The preeminent organization in the field, the Association publishes the International Journal of Middle East Studies and has nearly 3,000 members worldwide. MESA is committed to ensuring academic freedom and freedom of expression, both within the region and in connection with the study of the region in North America and elsewhere.

At the beginning of June 2013, an Egyptian court ruled that several Western-backed non-governmental organizations operating in Egypt aimed to “undermine Egypt’s national security and lay out a sectarian, political map that serves United States and Israeli interests”  and were receiving  funding from outside to pursue that aim. The ruling prompted critical responses from both inside and outside Egypt. Several critics suggested that insufficient evidence had been provided to prove the allegations and so, they appeared to be political in intent.   Indeed, this was precisely what Dr. Hamzawy posted in a single tweet on June 5. It reads: “Verdict in case of foreign funding of CS shocking, transparency lacking, facts undocumented & politicization evident.” It is for these words that he is now being accused of insulting the Egyptian judiciary.

We are fully aware that insulting the judiciary is a crime in Egyptian law; however, we fail to see how the above words can be read as defamatory. Instead, the charges against Dr. Hamzawy appear to be part of a broader, systematic effort to stifle critical free expression.  
Dr. Hamzawy is well-known and well-respected in the academic community as a scholar and intellectual, as a man of principles and integrity. He is deeply committed to Egypt, to liberal and democratic values. 
We therefore urge you to dismiss this baseless charge against Dr. Hamzawy immediately. We further call upon you to uphold and protect , in all  instances, the  provisions of the 2014 constitution, most notably Article 65, which guarantees freedom of thought and opinion, including expression of opinion through speech.   We look forward to your timely response.

Sincerely,
Nathan Brown
President

cc:       
Dr. Hazem El-Beblawi, Prime Minister
Dr. Nabil Fahmy, Minister of Foreign Affairs
Dr. Hossam Eissa, Minister of Higher Education
Maj. Gen. Mohamed Mostafa, Minister of Interior Affairs
Dr. Mohamed Fayek, President, National Council on Human Rights
Dr. Lisa Anderson, President, American University in Cairo

 

4 February 2014

Adel Abd al-Hameed
Minister of Justice
Lazoghly Square, Ministry of Justice
Cairo
Arab Republic of Egypt

by fax: 20 2 795 8103
by e-mail: mjustice@moj.gov.eg

Your Excellency,

I write to you on behalf of the Committee on Academic Freedom of the Middle East Studies Association of North America (MESA) in strong protest of the indictment of Dr. Emad Shahin on charges of espionage and subversion. The members of our committee know Dr. Shahin to be a person of the utmost integrity and an Egyptian patriot who would never harm his home country. We understand that his indictment is scheduled to undergo review on February 16. We call upon you to intervene personally to order an earlier review—and one that results in the dismissal of the indictment.

MESA was founded in 1966 to promote scholarship and teaching on the Middle East and North Africa. The preeminent organization in the field, the Association publishes the International Journal of Middle East Studies and has nearly 3,000 members worldwide. MESA is committed to ensuring academic freedom and freedom of expression, both within the region and in connection with the study of the region in North America and elsewhere.

Earlier this month Dr. Shahin was informed that the State Security Prosecutor had named him as a person involved in the “grand spy case,” the prosecution of deposed President Muhammad Mursi and other senior members of the Society of Muslim Brothers. The specific charges include: espionage, leading an illegal organization, providing a banned organization with information and financial support, calling for the suspension of the constitution, preventing state institutions and authorities from performing their functions, harming national unity and social harmony, and calling for a change of government by force. The implication of these charges is that Dr. Shahin is himself a member of the Muslim Brothers.

These charges are completely unfounded. Dr. Shahin is not now nor has he ever been a member of the Muslim Brothers. He has not provided that group with any support.

Dr. Shahin is a distinguished political scientist with an impressive scholarly and pedagogical record. He has taught at the university level in both the United States and Egypt, most recently as professor of public policy at the American University in Cairo. The esteem in which his colleagues hold him is evident in his appointment to numerous professional service positions, such as the editorship of the Oxford Encyclopedia of Islam and Politics.

Dr. Shahin is well known in both Egypt and the United States as a critic of the authoritarian policies and practices of the Egyptian state. He has been a consistent voice for democracy, pluralism and the rule of law throughout the political tumult in Egypt since January 2011. A further distortion of the truth by the State Security Prosecutor is that Dr. Shahin was “at large” at the time of the indictment. In fact, he was readily available to the authorities at both his workplace and his residence. He never received a subpoena or any indication that the authorities wished to speak with him. Dr. Shahin has nothing to hide.

We agree, therefore, with Dr. Shahin when he surmises that his “true offense” is that he has been vocal in his criticism of “the course of political events in Egypt since last summer.” We are deeply concerned that his indictment signals a decision on the part of the Egyptian state to hound all of its political opponents—regardless of partisan or ideological affiliation—and thereby suppress political dissent.

Such a decision would be a severe violation of the rights of Egyptian citizens, as laid out in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Egypt is a state party. The government of Egypt is responsible for upholding the rights of all of its citizens, including those who disagree with particular decisions made by the authorities. Indeed, Article 65 of the constitution passed by referendum in mid-January protects freedom of thought and opinion, including expression of opinion through speech. And Article 93 pledges that the state will honor its commitments under international human rights treaties ratified by Egypt.

We urge you to rescind the indictment of Dr. Emad Shahin immediately and affirm that the government of Egypt respects the right of Egyptian citizens to free speech, whether on university campuses or elsewhere. We await the honor of your reply.

Sincerely,
Nathan Brown
President

cc:       
Dr. Hazem Elbeblawy, Prime Minister
Dr. Hossam Eissa, Minister of Higher Education
Maj. Gen. Mohamed Mostafa, Minister of Interior Affairs
Dr. Lisa Anderson, President, American University in Cairo

17 December 2013

Prime Minister Hazem Al-Beblawy
Magles El Shaab St.
Kasr El Aini St.
Cairo
Arab Republic of Egypt

via facsimile 20 2 795 8048 or 20 2 795 8016
via email primemin@idsc.gov.eg

Your Excellency,

I write to you on behalf of the Committee on Academic Freedom of the Middle East Studies Association of North America (MESA) to register our very grave concern about the worsening climate for free speech and peaceable assembly on university campuses in Egypt. For several months, we have monitored a spate of increasingly worrisome decrees that limit peaceable assembly on campus in tandem with a pattern of escalating state violence against protesters affiliated with universities. The worst incident occurred on November 28, when Cairo University student Mohamed Reda was killed by birdshot fired by security forces attempting to disperse a demonstration. We call upon you to intervene promptly and personally to end these intolerable abuses of state power.

MESA was founded in 1966 to promote scholarship and teaching on the Middle East and North Africa. The preeminent organization in the field, the Association publishes the International Journal of Middle East Studies and has over 3,000 members worldwide. MESA is committed to ensuring academic freedom and freedom of expression, both within the region and in connection with the study of the region in North America and elsewhere.

We note, first, the succession of decrees that circumscribe the freedom to demonstrate on campus. State security forces are ever more conspicuous in university life, due to an October measure allowing police to guard universities from outside the grounds, which was subsequently expanded into a decree that police can enter university grounds without permission from the university administration. A November 1 edict by the Higher Council of Universities, meanwhile, prohibits campus demonstrations that target a particular body. As one student union member has been quoted in the press, “But this is the whole purpose of a demonstration: We demonstrate against someone or somebody because they did something that we find to be unfair and we criticize them for it. Otherwise, why demonstrate?” The Higher Council decree is indeed chilling. Since all demonstrations focus on the policies of a certain institution or group, it would seem that the government is claiming for itself the right to ban them across the board. Indeed, the most recent news is that some university administrators are forming committees to consider how to apply on campus the restrictions on political protest declared by the state on November 25. By this last decree, would-be demonstrators must obtain permission from the Interior Ministry in order to hold their gathering.

All of these measures are severe violations of the rights of Egyptian citizens, as laid out in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Egypt is a state party.

There have been protests at several Egyptian university campuses, some of which seem partly inspired by these arbitrary attempts to squelch freedom of expression. Time and again, the state has used violence against the protesters. Here we highlight three particularly egregious cases that are in urgent need of redress.

The first is the case of al-Azhar University, which has seen almost continuous protests since classes began in October. On November 12, 12 students were given 17-year jail sentences for their participation in demonstrations on October 30. They were charged with six crimes: gathering (tagamhur), thuggery (baltaga), attacking public employees, destruction of/damage to public property, destruction of private property and possessing instruments used to attack people.

While the demonstrators do appear to have caused property damage, including at least one hole in a wall and at least one damaged classroom, we echo the protest issued by several Egyptian human rights organizations against the draconian punishments that were imposed. The court arrived at the sentences of 17 years by adding the maximum sentence for each of the six crimes together. Yet Egyptian law is quite clear that when a defendant is charged with several crimes committed for the same purpose then they must be considered a single offense and the defendant given the penalty that applies to the most serious of the crimes. None of the six crimes carries a penalty in excess of three years’ imprisonment.

The second case is that of Mohamed Reda, the Cairo University engineering student shot dead on November 28. The government contends that Reda was killed from within university grounds by fellow protesters, saying that the police do not use the type of birdshot found in his body. But the results of an internal university investigation released on December 1 cast serious doubt on the state’s contention. At a press conference pursuant to the investigation, Dr. Sherif Morad, then dean of the Faculty of Engineering, said the fatal shots came from the square outside the university gates where the security forces had massed. The university inquiry lends additional credence to the complaint of Dr. Gaber Nassar, president of Cairo University. In a televised interview, Dr. Nassar said that police had used “excessive force” in the attempt to quash the November 28 protest. As an institution, Cairo University published a statement that “strongly condemned” the “direct assault” by security forces on campus protesters that day.

The third case is the suppression of a peaceful student strike at Zagazig University by Central Security Forces troops using tear gas and—before that—by unknown men with knives. The strike, which eventually spread from the Faculty of Engineering to the Faculty of Commerce, was called in late November to demand the release of 23 colleagues who were imprisoned in advance of the one-year anniversary of the Muhammad Mahmoud Street protests in Cairo on spurious charges of “sabotage.” The 23 students include a Revolutionary Socialist who is a member of the student union at the Faculty of Engineering, a member of the Destour Party, and other political activists. The engineering students suspended their strike on November 25 after university administrators promised action on their demands, but as of this writing, all 23 of their colleagues remain in custody.

The government of Egypt is responsible for protecting and upholding the rights of all of its citizens, including those who disagree with particular decisions made by the authorities and take to the streets to voice their opposition. Academic freedom and freedom of expression on university campuses are two of the most important of those rights in Egypt, where universities have historically played such a vital role in political and civic life.

We urge you to lift all the restrictions identified above with respect to peaceful assembly on campus. We request that you order an immediate review of the sentences of the al-Azhar students, with an eye toward reducing them in accordance with Egyptian law, and that you conduct a thorough investigation of the circumstances of Mohamed Reda’s death. As per the recommendations of the Cairo University report of December 1, this investigation should include examination of the video footage taken from cameras at the Bank al-Ahli and other nearby locations to reconstruct the event. Other violent incidents must be fully investigated as well, and any police officers who may have employed excessive or unwarranted force must be held accountable. We call for the immediate release of the students at Zagazig University without penalty or threat of further harassment.

Finally, we appeal to you to do everything in your power to ensure that Egyptian universities remain places of free inquiry and open debate during this difficult period in Egypt’s history. We await the honor of your reply.

Sincerely,

Nathan Brown
President, Middle East Studies Association and
Professor of Political Science and International Affairs, George Washington University

cc:

Dr. Hossam Eissa, Minister of Higher Education
Maj. Gen. Mohamed Mostafa, Minister of Interior Affairs
Adel Abd al-Hameed, Minister of Justice
Sheikh Usama al-Abd, Rector, al-Azhar University
Dr. Gaber Nassar, President, Cairo University
Dr. Ashraf al-Shehhi, President, Zagazig University
Khaled Mansour, Director, Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights

 

August 28, 2013

Prime Minister Hazem AlBeblawi
Magles El Shaab St., Kasr El Aini St.
Cairo, Egypt
Fax # 20-2-7958048/7958016; primemin@idsc.gov.eg

Dear Prime Minister AlBeblawi,

I write on behalf of the Committee on Academic Freedom of the Middle East Studies Association of North America (MESA) to express our concern about the arrest and detention of two Canadian citizens, John Greyson and Tarek Loubani, in Cairo almost two weeks ago.

MESA was founded in 1966 to promote scholarship and teaching on the Middle East and North Africa. The preeminent organization in the field, MESA publishes the International Journal of Middle East Studies and has nearly 3000 members worldwide. MESA is committed to ensuring academic freedom of expression, both within the region and in connection with the study of the region in North America and elsewhere.

Both men were in Egypt en route to Gaza for academic purposes, namely, medical collaboration with al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza. Mr. Greyson, a film-maker and professor in the Department of Film at York University, was preparing a film about the Canadian-Gazan collaboration.  Dr. Loubani, who is an emergency room medical physician as well as professor of emergency medicine at the University of Western Ontario, is also one of the architects of the Canada-Gaza project.  It is a project that has brought doctors from the University of Western Ontario to Gaza to train physicians in Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) and Advanced Trauma Life Support (ATLS).

Mssrs. Greyson and Loubani arrived in Cairo on August 15 with the intention of traveling to Gaza immediately.  However, because of the volatile situation in Egypt, travel to the border with Gaza was problematic.  So they delayed their departure to Gaza by one day.  On August 16, they became lost in Cairo and entered a police station to ask for directions back to their hotel. Instead of being given directions, they were arrested.  At 4 pm Toronto time (10 pm Cairo time), Dr. Loubani was able to call his primary contact in Canada and leave the very short message: “we are being arrested by Egyptian police.”

Since then, it has not been possible to have telephone contact with either one.  There is no reason for either of these men to be detained.  They have broken no Egyptian law and represent no threat to the Government of Egypt.  Therefore, we call upon you and your fellow officials to release Mr. Greyson and Dr. Loubani promptly and not hinder them in their academic as well as humanitarian project.  We await a prompt, positive response to this simple request.

Thank you,

Peter Sluglett
MESA President
Visiting Research Professor, Middle East Institute, National University of Singapore 

cc:  President Adly Mansour
Egyptian Embassy, Ottawa, Canada (egyptemb@sympatico.ca)
Canadian Embassy, Cairo, Egypt (cairo@international.gc.ca)

May 7, 2013

Dr. Maher Musbah
President, Suez University
Cairo-Suez Road
Suez
Arab Republic of Egypt

 

Dear President Musbah,

I write on behalf of the Committee on Academic Freedom of the Middle East Studies Association (MESA) of North America in strong protest of the current investigation and informal suspension without pay of Dr. Mona Prince by officials at your university. We believe that this investigation is unwarranted by the facts of the case and badly undermines the principles of academic freedom. We are troubled, in addition, by evidence that the mistreatment of Dr. Prince by the university is politically motivated.  

MESA was founded in 1966 to promote scholarship and teaching on the Middle East and North Africa. The preeminent organization in the field, the Association publishes the International Journal of Middle East Studies and has nearly 3,000 members worldwide. MESA is committed to ensuring academic freedom and freedom of expression, both within the region and in connection with the study of the region in North America and elsewhere.

As has been widely reported in Egyptian print and broadcast media, Dr. Prince stands accused by one of her students of expressing untoward sentiments about Islam during a class discussion about the problem of sectarian tensions in Egypt. We use a vague formulation because the exact complaint against Dr. Prince seems to change every few days. Originally, she was told she would be investigated for “contempt of religion.” In an April 28 interview with al-Youm al-Sabi‘, you indicated that this charge would be downgraded to “insulting Islam.” On May 3, an article in al-Masry al-Youm suggested that she faces allegations of “contempt of religion and insults to certain Salafist sheikhs.”

As might be guessed from the fuzzy nature of the charges, the precipitating incident appears to have been a simple misunderstanding by the student of Dr. Prince’s points or at most a disagreement between the two of them. Dr. Prince’s April 16 appearance on Mona al-Shazli’s television program, “Gumla Mufida,” was instructive in this respect. When the student called in to the program to voice her grievances, she could not offer any examples of wrongdoing on Dr. Prince’s part. It was clear that the student had been offended by certain turns of phrase in readings that Dr. Prince had assigned about sexual harassment in Egypt and by Dr. Prince’s opinions about sectarian discord in the country. But that was all.

It seems to us, indeed, that Dr. Prince acted precisely as a professor should, particularly in a discussion section of a course designed to teach critical thinking skills. She encouraged her students to tackle matters that, while sensitive and unpleasant, are among the most pressing socio-political issues in contemporary Egypt.

We understand that several of Dr. Prince’s students oppose the complaint against her but are too intimidated by the atmosphere on campus to speak out on her behalf.

We are quite disturbed, therefore, that the university has opened an investigation at all. The mere fact that the university deems this innocuous incident worthy of inquiry could exercise a chilling effect upon academic freedom. Must every professor worry that, if a student is displeased by what s/he teaches, s/he will be subjected to questioning by administrators and suspended from his job?

Other aspects of Dr. Prince’s case are even more disconcerting. She has received death threats, as garbled versions of what transpired in her classroom have spread across campus and through the media. According to the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights and the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression, university officials’ first response to the student’s accusations was to advise Dr. Prince not to come to campus because they could not guarantee her personal safety. Shortly afterward, according to press sources, Dr. Prince’s department brought a fresh charge against her—which she denies—to the effect that she regularly skips her lectures. We are very skeptical of these allegations, given the timing. Finally, we are greatly concerned by Dr. Prince’s statement that she was suspended for six months last year because she is “one of those Tahrir Square people.”

We urge you to drop the investigation of Dr. Prince immediately. We echo the words of our Egyptian colleagues who have been quoted in the press decrying the inquiry as a threat to academic freedom and freedom of expression in all of Egypt. We hope that you will welcome Dr. Prince back to her job at Suez University, recompense her back pay and take all necessary steps to protect her from anyone who would harm her. We appeal to you, finally, to affirm publicly that the principle of academic freedom will be upheld at Suez University in the future.

Sincerely,

Peter Sluglett
MESA President
Visiting Research Professor, Middle East Institute, National University of Singapore

 cc: Dr. Mustafa Mus‘ad, Minister of Higher Education

October 18, 2010

His Excellency Muhammad Husni Mubarak
President, Arab Republic of Egypt
`Abdin Palace
Cairo, Egypt 
Fax: +20-2-2390-1998

Dr. Hany Mahfouz Helal
Minister of Higher Education
101 Kasr al-Aini St.
Cairo, Egypt
Fax: +20-2-2794-1005
hhelal@link.net

Dear President Mubarak and Minister Helal,

I am writing on behalf of the Middle East Studies Association of North America (MESA) and its Committee on Academic Freedom (CAF) to express grave concern regarding numerous recent violations against students on several Egyptian university campuses. As soon as the academic year began in September, university security forces and administrators on several campuses set about punishing and assaulting students engaged in lawful, peaceful activism.

MESA was founded in 1966 to promote scholarship and teaching on the Middle East and North Africa. The preeminent organization in the field, the Association publishes the International Journal of Middle East Studies and has nearly 3000 members worldwide. MESA is committed to ensuring academic freedom and freedom of expression, both within the region and in connection with the study of the region in North America and elsewhere.

According to press and other media reports, for the past several weeks, university security officers and administrators have been systematically repressing student activities prior to student union elections scheduled for October 18. Students have been verbally abused, beaten, detained, arrested, and suspended for expressing their views on issues of public concern.

Among the most disturbing incidents that have come to our attention are the following:

• On September 26, MA student Marihan Ibrahim Ghorab at Tanta University was arrested for putting up posters welcoming new students to campus. Ghorab was taken to the Tanta police station where a report was filed against her for belonging to the 6th April movement. The prosecution ordered her release later that evening.

• On September 27, the head of the university security forces and three other officers at Fayoum University beat and kicked student Hisham Yahya for his refusal to be searched at the campus gates. Yahya had participated in collecting student signatures on reform advocate Mohamed ElBaradie’s program of political reform. 

• On September 29, five students at Ain Shams University supporting ElBaradei’s reform program were detained for four hours by university security forces and verbally assaulted, kicked, beaten, and burned with cigarettes on the palms of their hands. The prosecution referred the students to the medical examiner to prepare a report on their injuries.

• At Kafr al-Shaykh University, student Muhammad ‘Amer was suspended for one week and student Hasan Gom’a was suspended for two weeks, both without due process, for distributing to incoming students semester schedules signed by students of the Muslim Brothers.

• At Banha University, the Dean of the Faculty of Engineering suspended 11 Muslim Brother students for one month for their “Refomers” campaign greeting incoming students and collecting signatures for ElBaradei’s reform program.

• At Fayoum University, five students were suspended for one month for their “Reformers” campaign collecting signatures for ElBaradei’s reform program.

• At Mansoura University, 12 students were referred to a disciplinary hearing for putting up posters on campus advertising the “Reformers” campaign.

• At Menoufiyya University, 17 Muslim Brother students were suspended for one month for putting up posters of the “Reformers” campaign.

• At Ain Shams University, third-year law student Essam Muhammad was searched and detained by university security forces. Muhammad was then interrogated by the University’s legal affairs office for distributing leaflets, and the administration issued a decree barring him from sitting for fall semester exams.

• At al-Azhar University (Zaqaziq campus), university security forces forcibly attempted to search all female students before allowing them onto campus. The students resisted and clashes ensued, leading to the hospitalization of student Somayya Ashraf al-Saidy. Male students were beaten, and 27 of them were taken to the Zaqaziq police station. Some were later released while nine others remain in custody, awaiting orders from the prosecution.

The behavior of university security forces is a blatant violation of Egypt’s laws and constitution. Article 129 of the Penal Code punishes public servants who use force against citizens with up to one year imprisonment. Article 41 of the Constitution holds personal freedom sacrosanct, forbidding arrest or detention of any persons without an order by the prosecution. And Article 18 of the Constitution guarantees the independence of universities and scientific research centers, a right that Egyptian students and professors have long sought to uphold.

We urge you to investigate these unlawful acts, to put an end to them, to release arrested students, and to reinstate suspended students. The Egyptian government has maintained that “Egypt is currently undergoing a process of reform aimed at broadening political participation, ensuring freedom of expression in all its forms, upholding human rights, and empowering and enabling women and the civil society organizations to participate fully and effectively in public life.” (“Political Reform in Egypt,” Embassy of Egypt in Washington, D.C.). We call on you to lift all restrictions on students’ peaceful participation in public life.

We look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

Roger M.A. Allen
MESA President 
Professor of Arabic and Comparative Literature, University of Pennsylvania

cc:

H.E. Sameh Shoukry
Egyptian Ambassador to the US
Fax: 202-244-4319/202-244-5131
Embassy@egyptembassy.net

Dr. Maged al-Dib
President, Ain Shams University
Khalifa al-Ma’moun St.
Abbasiyya, Cairo
Fax: +20-2-2-684-7824
president@ainshams.edu.eg

Dr. Muhammad Ezz al-Arab
President, Menoufiyya University
Shebin al-Kom, Menoufiyya
Fax: +20-48-222-2963
president@menofia.edu.eg

Dr. Ahmad Magdy al-Gohari
President, Fayoum University
Fayoum
Fax: +20-84-633-6528
presd@fayoum.edu.eg

Dr. Fawzy Ali Torkey
President, Kafr al-Shaykh University
Kafr al-Shaykh
Fax: +20-47-322-3419
fatorkey@kfs.edu.eg

Dr. Ahmad Bayoumi Shehab Eddine 
President, Mansoura University
Gomhoria Street, Mansoura
Fax: +20-50-224-7900
president@mans.edu.eg

Dr. Hala Ahmad Fouad Ismail
President, Tanta University
Gaysh St. Gharbiyya
Fax: +20-40-330-2785
president@tanta.edu.eg

Dr. Muhammad Safwat Muhammad Zahran
President, Benha University
Qalyoubiyya 
info@bu.edu.eg

Sheikh Ahmed Mohammed Ahmed el-Tayeb
Head Cleric, Al-Azhar University
Madinat Nasr, Cairo
Fax: +20-2-2-2611404
Azhar@azhar.eun.eg


June 11, 2010

Professor Muhammad Sayyid Ahmad Salih al-Zoghby
President
Suez Canal University
Ismailiyya 41522, Egypt
M.elzoghbi@scuegypt.edu.eg

Dear President al-Zoghby,

I write on behalf of the Committee on Academic Freedom (CAF) of the Middle East Studies Association of North America (MESA) to protest the disciplinary action taken against Mr. Ahmad Galal, a student in his final year in the Faculty of Medicine of Suez Canal University. Last April Mr. Galal was the victim of a severe beating by the University Security Forces (USF) for distributing a magazine on campus. Rather than protest against this flagrant violation of academic freedom, a University Disciplinary Committee issued a suspension order against Mr. Galal. No disciplinary action is known to have been taken against the members of the USF involved in the incident.

MESA was founded in 1966 to promote scholarship and teaching on the Middle East and North Africa. The preeminent organization in the field, the Association publishes the International Journal of Middle East Studies and has nearly 3000 members worldwide. MESA is committed to ensuring academic freedom and freedom of expression, both within the region and in connection with the study of the region in North America and elsewhere.

As we understand the facts, they are as follows. On 8 April 2010, the head of the USF approached Mr. Galal and warned him of dire consequences if he did not desist from distributing on campus Sawt al-Jami‘a (The University Voice), a student publication whose latest issue was dedicated to al-Aqsa Mosque. An hour later, 7 members of the USF subjected Mr. Galal to severe beating inside the outpatient gynecology ward. Based on a medical report allegedly documenting injuries suffered by members of the USF, a police report was filed against Mr. Galal in the nearby police station claiming that it was he who had beaten the 7 members of the USF.

On 18 April 2010, a Disciplinary Committee issued a 30-day suspension order against Mr. Galal. Although the USF had reportedly conducted its own investigation of the matter, neither the Disciplinary Committee nor Prof. Sobhy al-Shishi, Director of Student Affairs in the Faculty of Medicine, either followed up on this investigation or interviewed any member of the USF who had been involved in the incident.

Given the many questions that these procedures raised, the Board of the Faculty of Medicine took a unanimous decision on 10 May 2010 to form a fact-finding mission and to appoint Dr. Ismail Youssef, Head of the Department of Psychiatry, as its Chair. The mission asked Prof. Khalil Ali Khalil, General Manager of Suez Canal University Hospitals, to provide the names of the doctors who had written the medical report which concluded that Mr. Galal had beaten the 7 members of the USF and had inflicted the injuries and contusions found on their bodies. Dr. Khalil refused to cooperate with the fact-finding mission.

Based on this suspicious medical report and with an expulsion order on his academic record, Mr. Galal now faces a misdemeanor charge and is scheduled to appear in court on 19 June 2010. The charge he now faces is “Attacking a civil servant while performing his duty”. CAF, a committee composed primarily of university faculty members (many with administrative experience), is deeply concerned by these violations of academic freedom at Suez Canal University. Mr. Galal was practicing his legitimate right of self expression and academic freedom when he distributed the student publication. Rather than defend and support Mr. Galal’s right, the Disciplinary Committee disregarded the egregious assault by the USF and proceeded to suspend the student for 30 days.

We therefore strongly urge you to reverse the suspension order issued against Mr. Ahmad Galal. We also urge you to conduct a thorough investigation of the USF, including its head, and to issue firm and clear directives that the duties of the USF are limited to maintaining order on campus and protecting university buildings and facilities, and that under no circumstances should they interfere with academic matters and/or limit academic freedom and freedom of expression on campus. Finally, we urge you to order Dr. Khalil to cooperate fully with the fact-finding mission and to reveal the details of the medical report that was the basis of Mr. Galal’s suspension.

We look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

Roger M.A. Allen
MESA President
Professor of Arabic and Comparative Literature, University of Pennsylvania


November 4, 2008

His Excellency Muhammad Husni Mubarak
President, Arab Republic of Egypt
`Abdin Palace
Cairo, Egypt 
Fax: +20-2-2390-1998

Dr. Hany Mahfouz Helal
Minister of Higher Education
101 Kasr al-Aini St.
Cairo, Egypt
Fax: +20-2-2794-1005
hhela@mailer.eun.eg
hhela@link.net

Dear President Mubarak and Minister Helal,

I am writing on behalf of the Middle East Studies Association of North America (MESA) and its Committee on Academic Freedom (CAF) to express serious concerns regarding the most recent wave of violations of academic freedom on several Egyptian university campuses. Intervention by security services and university administrations has sought to repress students’ free exercise of their right to run and vote in student elections, and their right to engage in other forms of campus activism.

MESA was founded in 1966 to promote scholarship and teaching on the Middle East and North Africa. The preeminent organization in the field, the Association publishes the International Journal of Middle East Studies and has more than 3000 members worldwide. MESA is committed to ensuring academic freedom and freedom of expression, both within the region and in connection with the study of the region in North America and elsewhere.

According to press and other media reports, for the past several weeks, university administrations and State Security officers have been systematically interfering in student union elections by preventing Muslim Brotherhood students from filing candidacies. Campuses have been circled with riot police and trucks, and plainclothes police and armed provocateurs have been allowed onto university grounds to disrupt and assault protesting students. In addition, activist students have been suspended, arrested, and/or denied university housing based on their political affiliation. 
Among the specific cases that have come to our attention are the following:

  • At the beginning of the academic year, before the start of student union elections, 14 students at Mansoura University were referred to disciplinary hearings for organizing orientation activities for new students (al-Dustor, September 26, 2008)
  • 62 students at Mansoura University have been subjected to various sanctions for setting up parallel student union elections to protest the rigging of regular student union elections. Some students have been referred to disciplinary hearings, others have been suspended, and still others have been threatened with suspension (al-Masry al-Yawm, October 29, 2008; al-Badeel, October 30, 2008)
  • Two students at Helwan University were arrested by State Security officers after a heated verbal argument between the students and a campus security guard. Despite a court order freeing the students, they remain detained by State Security (al-Masry al-Yawm, October 28, 2008)
  • Four Ikhwan students at Fayoum University have been suspended for one week for organizing an orientation for incoming students (al-Masry al-Yawm, October 28, 2008). Seven additional students at the same university have been arrested by State Security officers in connection with a campus campaign organized by Ikhwan students to “promote students’ identification with Arab and Muslim identity,” (al-Masry al-Yawm, October 30, 2008)
  • Four students at al-Azhar University were suspended for attempting to run in student union elections (al-Masry al-Yawm, October 21, 2008).
  • Six students from the 6 April youth movement at Ain Shams University were detained for 9 hours, and one of them was referred to a disciplinary hearing, for putting up posters and distributing pamphlets expressing opposition to the ruling National Democratic Party’s policies (al-Masry al-Yawm, November 4, 2008)
  • Fifteen students at Helwan University were beaten by campus security guards and administrative staff, in the presence of the head of the Helwan police station, for putting up posters criticizing the ruling National Democratic Party’s slogans and policies (al-Badeel, November 4, 2008; al-Masry al-Yawm, November 4, 2008)

Article 18 of the Egyptian Constitution guarantees the independence of universities and scientific research centers, a right that Egyptian academics and students are seeking to uphold. The free participation in student elections is a key element of academic freedom codified in Egyptian laws governing universities and student organizations.

We are deeply disturbed by the reports indicating continuing intimidation and assaults against student activists and continuing interference by security forces in university affairs, in violation of Egypt’s laws. We call on you to investigate these violations, to put an end to them, to reinstate suspended students, and to release students arrested for attempting to elect their campus representatives.

We await your response.

Sincerely,
Amy W. Newhall
Executive Director

cc:       His Excellency Nabil Fahmy, Ambassador of the Arab Republic of Egypt
            Dr. Abdallah Barakat, President, Helwan University
            Dr. Ahmad Magdy al-Gohary, President, Fayoum University
            Dr. Ahmad Bayoumi Shehab El-Din, President, Mansoura University
            Dr. Ahmad El-Tayeb, President, University of al-Azhar


July 14, 2008

Dr. Hany Mahfouz Helal
Minister of Higher Education
101 Kasr al-Aini St.
Fax: +20-2-794-1005
hhela@mailer.eun.eg
hhela@link.net

His Excellency Nabil Fahmy
Ambassador of the Arab Republic of Egypt
Fax: 202-244-4319

Your Excellencies,

I write on behalf of the Committee on Academic Freedom (CAF) of the Middle East Studies Association of North America (MESA) to express our deep concern about the delay of the Egyptian Ministry of Higher Education in replying to a US Fulbright Commission recommendation for a grant to an American graduate student and the rejection of that recommendation without a clearly stated reason.

The Middle East Studies Association of North America (MESA) was founded in 1966 to promote scholarship and teaching on the Middle East and North Africa. The preeminent organization in the field, the Association publishes the International Journal of Middle East Studies and has more than 2800 members worldwide. MESA is committed to ensuring academic freedom and freedom of expression, both within the region and in connection with the study of the region in North America and elsewhere.

We understand that there is a formal agreement or a protocol which regulates relations between the US Fulbright Commission and Egypt. Our intent is not to question its contents. Our goal is, rather, to draw your attention to the need for greater transparency regarding the research topics the Egyptian Ministry of Higher Education deems appropriate for Fulbright scholars and about how quickly it will reply to recommendations made by the US Fulbright Commission. It is in the best interests of both the US and Egypt that US students and scholars learn about Egyptian society, culture, and politics. It is also in the best interests of both countries that students and scholars be encouraged to study Arabic through extended stays in Egypt.

Because the application process for grants like the Fulbright is so long and time-consuming, it is essential that those involved in its administration act quickly. Students and scholars must apply for such research fellowships a full year before it is to take effect. When they are notified that their application has met with favor, they need time to arrange for all the practical details that a prolonged absence requires. And if the application does not meet with favor, they need time to make alternative arrangements. 
 
The most recent case, involving an American graduate student from the University of Arizona, is especially problematic. First, the refusal came so late that the student was unable to arrange for an alternative research opportunity. Second, the reason given for the refusal was not clear. 

As this case and others like it become better known, there will be two immediate consequences neither of which is desirable. First, US students and scholars will increasingly turn away from attempting to study Egypt. Second, they will decide to seek funding opportunities that are more reliable than those offered by the Fulbright Commission. Not only will scholarship in the US suffer, but so too will scholarship in Egypt. Indeed, the whole purpose of the Fulbright program risks being thwarted by the continuation of these practices.

With all due respect and prompted by the high regard in which we hold the cultural and scholarly traditions of Egypt, we urge the Egyptian Ministry of Higher Education to implement clear and objective standards for judging research projects and to communicate them to the US Fulbright Commission. We also urge the Ministry to respond quickly and efficiently to the recommendations submitted by the US Fulbright Commission. 
 
We look forward to your response.

Sincerely yours,
Amy Newhall
Executive Director
MESA

cc:
Her Excellency Margaret Scobey.
United States Ambassador to the Arab Republic of Egypt
Fax: +20-2-797-3200

The Honorable Condoleezza Rice
Secretary of State
U.S. Dept. of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520
Fax: 202-647-2283

Dr. Bruce Lohof
Executive Director, Binational Fulbright Commission in Egypt
21 Amer St., Messaha, Dokki, 12311, Giza, Egypt
Fax: + 202 2795 7893


December 19, 2007

His Excellency Muhammad Husni Mubarak
President, Arab Republic of Egypt
`Abdin Palace
Cairo, Egypt

Fax: +20-2-2390-1998

Dear President Mubarak,
We are writing on behalf of the Middle East Studies Association of North America (MESA) and its Committee on Academic Freedom.  On May 7, 2007, we wrote to you concerning recurring accounts of severe restrictions on student expression, including disciplinary hearings and suspensions, on several Egyptian university campuses. 

We are dismayed to learn that, since that date, rather than abating, the restrictions on academic freedom at Egyptian universities have been infringed by a series of additional actions that risk creating an atmosphere of intimidation rather than fostering the free exchange of ideas essential to the academic enterprise. 

According to Egyptian press accounts and human rights organizations: 

  • On December 6, security forces intervened against a demonstrations by medical and other students at al-Azhar University against a steady stream of retaliatory measures taken against earlier protests; they also barred journalists attempting to cover the event from entering the campus.
  • On November 28, at a lecture in Helwan University, students from the official student union attacked socialist students from the Engineering faculty Mustafa Shawqi, Khaled al-Sayed, and Nagi Kamel, whose finger was broken. The students were attacked after they protested being marginalized during the lecture’s question-and-answer period. Helwan University president Abdallah Barakat turned over the three students to security forces; security forces referred them to the prosecution, which released them a day later.
  • On November 26, 150 students at Cairo University staged a sit-in and hunger strike to protest their eviction from the university dormitories. In a press release, President of Cairo University Dr. Ali Abdel Rahman said, “The students’ protests constitute incitement to their fellow students and a contravention of university norms.” 
  • On November 21, Dean of the Faculty of Commerce at Tanta University suspended four students (Mahmoud Hindy, Ahmed Abdel Salam, Sabri Muhammad, Abdel Halim Muhammad Ibrahim) for “posting inappropriate expressions.” The students had put up signs protesting increases in university fees.
  • On November 17, the Dean of Tanta University’s Sciences Faculty Dr. Ibrahim Kamel al-Shorbagi is reported to have physically assaulted student Yasser Atef and had security guards forcibly drag him to the Dean’s office to prevent him from discussing the increase in university fees with his peers.
  • On October 23, at the Asyut University Faculty of Law, students al-Husseiny Abu Dayf and Muhammad Kamal Eddin were summarily suspended for one month each without first being allowed a hearing, a violation of university by-laws. The students had sued the university president in the courts for raising annual university fees from £E14 to £E200, and the court ruled in their favor. On November 23, Abu Dayf was suspended for one more month for distributing copies of the court ruling to fellow students.

Accounts suggest such actions center on attempts to debate and discuss both issues of specific concern to students as well as more general political issues.  As we noted in our previous letters of 7 May 2007 and 7 November  2007, we are disturbed by the number of incidents in which those engaged in peaceful discussion and other forms of political debate have suffered sanctions from university administrative and disciplinary bodies.

The Middle East Studies Association of North America (MESA) was founded in 1966 to promote scholarship and teaching on the Middle East and North Africa. The preeminent organization in the field, the Association publishes the International Journal of Middle East Studies and has more than 2700 members worldwide. MESA is committed to ensuring academic freedom and freedom of expression, both within the region and in connection with the study of the region in North America and elsewhere. 

Peaceful and free exchange of ideas is at the heart of the academic enterprise, and sanctions on those who engage in such exchanges amounts to a serious violation of academic freedom. As a committee of MESA charged with monitoring infringements on academic freedom, the Committee on Academic Freedom is deeply concerned by the frequency and consistency of these accounts and will therefore continue to follow the issue by monitoring the situation on Egyptian university campuses.

We urge you to investigate the accounts of the kind described in this letter and ensure that the Ministry of Higher Education and the administrations of Egyptian universities allow those who engage in discussion and debate in an academic setting to do so without fear of punitive action.  To that end, we also support the current call by many Egyptian professors and students for an end to the interference of the state security forces in campus affairs.  
We look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

Laurie Brand
Committee on Academic Freedom, Chair


cc:
Dr. Hany Mahfouz Helal, 
Minister of Higher Education
101 Kasr al-Aini St.
Fax: +20-2-2794-1005
hhela@mailer.eun.eg
hhela@link.net

His Excellency Nabil Fahmy 
Ambassador of the Arab Republic of Egypt
Fax: +20-2-2244-4319
                
His Excellency Francis J. Ricciardone, Jr. 
United States Ambassador to the Arab Republic of Egypt
Fax: +20-2-2797-3200

Mr. Khaled Aly Elbakly
Minister P. and Deputy Permanent Representative
Permanent Mission of the Arab Republic of Egypt to the United Nations
Fax: +20-2-2390-9622

Dr. Ahmad Zaki Badr
President, Ain Shams University
Abbasiyya, 11566
Cairo, Egypt
Fax: +20-2-2684-7824
pres@asunet.shams.edu.eg

Dr. Hosam Eddine Mohammad El-Attar
President, Banha University
Qalyoubiyya, Egypt
Benha.university@gmail.com

Dr. Ali Abdel Rahman Youssef
President, Cairo University
Midan al-Gami’a
Giza, Egypt

Dr. Abd al-Hayy Ebeid
President, Helwan University
Ain Helwan 
Cairo, Egypt
Fax: +20-2-2556-5820

Dr. Galal Mostafa Saeed
President, Fayyoum University
Fayyoum 63514, Egypt
Fax: +20-2-2084 637-7064
gms00@fayoum.edu.eg

Dr. Ezzat Abdallah Ahmad
President, Assiut University
Assiut, 71515 Egypt
Fax: +20-2-2088-312-564 or 2088-342-708
sup@acc.aun.edu.eg

Dr. Ahmad al-Tayyeb
President, al-Azhar University
Nasr City, Cairo, Egypt
Fax: +20-2-2261-1404
azhar@azhar.eun.eg


07 November 2007

His Excellency Muhammad Husni Mubarak
President, Arab Republic of Egypt
`Abdin Palace
Cairo, Egypt

Fax: +20-2-390-1998

Dear President Mubarak,

We are writing on behalf of the Middle East Studies Association of North America (MESA) and its Committee on Academic Freedom (CAF) to follow up on concerns initially expressed in a letter dated 7 May 2007 regarding hearings, suspensions, and arrests on several Egyptian university campuses of students belonging to the Kifaya movement or the Muslim Brotherhood.  Security service and police intervention have most recently aimed at repressing students’ free exercise of their right to vote in student elections.  
   
The Middle East Studies Association of North America (MESA) was founded in 1966 to promote scholarship and teaching on the Middle East and North Africa. The preeminent organization in the field, the Association publishes the International Journal of Middle East Studies and has more than 2700 members worldwide. MESA is committed to ensuring academic freedom and freedom of expression, both within the region and in connection with the study of the region in North America and elsewhere.

According to press and other media reports, for the past two weeks, university administrations and State Security officers have been systematically engineering student union elections by preventing Ikhwan, Kifaya and leftist students from filing candidacies. Campuses have been circled with riot police and trucks, and plainclothes police and armed provocateurs have been allowed onto campuses to disrupt and assault protesting students.  In addition, activist students have been suspended and arrested.

Among the specific cases that have come to our attention are the following:

1.  The Law School Dean at Assiut University has suspended two student
members of Kifaya for one month. 

2.  Four Ikhwan students from the Helwan University School of Social Work have been suspended for the entire semester without first being interrogated or referred to disciplinary tribunals, charged with distributing pamphlets and putting up posters. Three of the four students were also suspended in April for two years each, but re-instated after a court ruled in their favor.

3.  Ten Ikhwan students from Ain Shams who were ordered released by prosecutors on 10/25 were re-arrested and taken to the Interior Ministry headquarters in Lazoghly.  In connection with events the previous day (10/24) on campus, the March 9 Movement for the Independence of Universities and the Press Syndicate both issued statements condemning the armed provocateurs’ storming of the Ain Shams campus. The March 9 statement was signed by 58 faculty members at Ain Shams and other universities and states in part, “The Ain Shams University administration is wholly responsible for the entry of armed thugs onto campus who then assaulted students and journalists.” (al-Masry al-Yawm, 10/29).

4.  Three Ikhwan students at Fayoum University were re-arrested on 10/25 after prosecutors had released them the previous day.

5.  At Cairo University, students have been prevented from staging rallies to express their rejection of improper practices and rigging of student elections. The university has barred students from entering or exiting from the main gate of the university, which has led to clashes with university guards.

Moreover, at least one professor associated with the National Democratic Party, Dr Muhammad Fathi Abd-al-Alim of the school of science, threatened his  students that if they did not participate in the election process, he would give them lesser grades. 

6.  At Banha University the university administration deleted the names of all Muslim Brotherhood candidates from the final lists of student union elections. This was preceded by a series of violations. Nomination of student candidates was permitted only on Thursday, 11 October 2007, which was the last day of school before the Id holiday. Consequently, no one was on campus. 

7.  At al-Azhar (Assiut campus), two students in the medical school were interrogated and suspended on charges of recruiting for the Muslim Brothers on campus.  100 students were expelled from the dormitories for belonging to the Muslim Brothers.

The free participation in student elections is a key element of academic freedom.  We are deeply disturbed by the reports coming from Egypt indicating continuing intimidation and assaults against student activists.  We call on you to look into these violations, to put an end to them, to reinstate any students suspended,  and release any arrested for the simple exercise of their right to elect representatives.

Sincerely,

Zachary Lockman
MESA President

cc:          

Dr. Hany Mahfouz Helal, 
Minister of Higher Education
101 Kasr al-Aini St.
Fax: +20-2-794-1005
hhela@mailer.eun.eg
hhela@link.net

His Excellency Nabil Fahmy 
Ambassador of the Arab Republic of Egypt
Fax: +20-2-244-4319
                
His Excellency Francis J. Ricciardone, Jr. 
United States Ambassador to the Arab Republic of Egypt
Fax: +20-2-797-3200

Mr. Khaled Aly Elbakly
Minister P. and Deputy Permanent Representative
Permanent Mission of the Arab Republic of Egypt to the United Nations
Fax: +20-2-390-9622

Dr. Ahmad Zaki Badr
President, Ain Shams University
Abbasiyya, 11566
Cairo, Egypt
Fax: +20-2-684-7824
pres@asunet.shams.edu.eg

Dr. Hosam Eddine Mohammad El-Attar
President, Banha University
Qalyoubiyya, Egypt
Benha.university@gmail.com

Dr. Ali Abdel Rahman Youssef
President, Cairo University
Midan al-Gami’a
Giza, Egypt

Dr. Abd al-Hayy Ebeid
President, Helwan University
Ain Helwan 
Cairo, Egypt
Fax: +20-2-556-5820

Dr. Galal Mostafa Saeed
President, Fayyoum University
Fayyoum 63514, Egypt
Fax: +20-2-084 637-7064
gms00@fayoum.edu.eg

Dr. Ezzat Abdallah Ahmad
President, Assiut University
Assiut, 71515 Egypt
Fax: +20-2-088-312-564 or 088-342-708
sup@acc.aun.edu.eg

Dr. Ahmad al-Tayyeb
President, al-Azhar University
Nasr City, Cairo, Egypt
Fax: +20-2-261-1404
azhar@azhar.eun.eg


May 7, 2007

His Excellency Husni Mubarak 
President of the Arab Republic of Egypt
`Abdin Palace
Cairo, Egypt 
Fax: +202-390-1998

Dear President Mubarak:

We are writing on behalf of the Middle East Studies Association of North America (MESA) and its Committee on Academic Freedom. We are deeply concerned about accounts of severe restrictions on student expression, including disciplinary hearings and suspensions, on several Egyptian university campuses. Accounts suggest such actions center on attempts to debate and discuss issues of political reform, particularly the recent amendments to the Egyptian constitution. We note with particular concern frequent accounts that those engaged in peaceful discussion and other forms of political debate have suffered sanctions from university administrative and disciplinary bodies.

The Middle East Studies Association of North America (MESA) was founded in 1966 to promote scholarship and teaching on the Middle East and North Africa. The preeminent organization in the field, the Association publishes the International Journal of Middle East Studies and has more than 2700 members worldwide. MESA is committed to ensuring academic freedom and freedom of expression, both within the region and in connection with the study of the region in North America and elsewhere.

Among the numerous recent cases that have been brought to our attention are the following:

• President of Mansoura University Magdy Abou Rayan suspended 33 students for one month as well as referring them to disciplinary tribunals, apparently for staging a skit titled “Congratulations to the Son” dealing with current events (al-Masry al-Yawm, March 26, 2007). Nine students from the Faculty of Commerce were suspended for one month, charged with distributing lecture notes without permission. A third case is the suspension of an engineering student for one year and the referral of 14 other students to a disciplinary tribunal, all charged with gathering donations in support of Palestinians.

• At Cairo University on April 22, the Dean of the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine convened a disciplinary tribunal for 20 students, charging them with belonging to the Free Student Union.

• At Ain Shams University, 27 students were suspended for one month for participating in the Free Student Union elections (al-Masry al-Yawm, March 15, 2007).

• On February 21, 11 students at Tanta University were suspended for one semester after the conclusion of the Free Student Union elections.

• On April 15 at Menoufiyya University, students were arrested after announcing their intention to organize an annual end-of-year performance. On the same day, the Shebeen al-Kom prosecution charged 16 of the students with belonging to the Muslim Brothers and ordered them held for 15 days in the Shebeen General Prison.

The Egyptian Constitution itself includes explicit protection of academic freedoms. Article 47 states that “Freedom of expression is guaranteed, and every human being has the right to express his opinion and disseminate it orally or in writing or using imagery or any other means of expression within the bounds of law. Self-criticism and constructive criticism are guarantees for the soundness of the national structure.” Similarly, according to Article 18, “Education is a right guaranteed by the state, and it is mandatory at the primary phase. The state works to extend this to other phases, and supervises all of education, and guarantees the independence of universities and centers of scientific research.”

Moreover, Egyptian administrative courts have overturned university administration decisions. On April 8, the Court of the Administrative Judiciary reversed the decision by the administration of al-Azhar University suspending 32 students and barring them from sitting for final exams. On March 25, the same court reversed the decision by the Ain Shams University administration to suspend 12 students and ordered the university to pay all legal fees. The Court also compelled the president of Helwan University, Abdel Hayy Ebeid, to set a date for disciplinary hearings for 29 students suspended from Helwan University for organizing parallel student union elections.

Peaceful and free exchange of ideas is at the heart of the academic enterprise, and sanctions on those who engage in such exchanges amounts to a serious violation of academic freedom. As a committee of MESA charged with monitoring infringements on academic freedom, the Committee on Academic Freedom is deeply concerned by the frequency and consistency of these accounts and will therefore continue to follow the issue by monitoring the situation on Egyptian university campuses.

We urge you to investigate the accounts of the kind described in this letter and ensure that the Ministry of Higher Education and the administrations of Egyptian universities take steps to ensure that those who engage in discussion and debate in an academic setting can do so without fear of punitive action. We also urge you to abide by administrative court rulings reversing suspension orders and reinstating students without penalty.

Sincerely,
Zachary Lockman
MESA President

cc: Dr. Hany Mahfouz Helal, 
Minister of Higher Education
101 Kasr al-Aini St.
Fax: +20 2 794-1005
hhela@mailer.eun.eg
hhela@link.net

His Excellency Nabil Fahmy 
Ambassador of the Arab Republic of Egypt
Fax: 202-244-4319

His Excellency Francis J. Ricciardone, Jr. 
United States Ambassador to the Arab Republic of Egypt
Fax: +20 2 797-3200

Mr. Khaled Aly Elbakly
Minister P. and Deputy Permanent Representative
Permanent Mission of the Arab Republic of Egypt to the United Nations
Fax: +20 2 390-9622

Dr. Hani Mohamed Gohar
Dean of the Faculty of 
Veterinary Medicine
Cairo University
PO Box 12211
Giza, Egypt
Fax: +20 2 572-5240
vetdean@mailer.eun.edu

Dr. Abbas Ali al-Hifnawy
President
Menoufiyya University
Gamal Abdel Nasser Street
Shebeen al-Kom, Menoufiyya
Fax: + 20 2 575-2777
A.Hfnawy@mailer.menofia.edu.eg
President@mailer.menofia.edu.eg

Dr. Abdel Fattah Sadakah
President
Tanta University
Gaysh St.
Tanta, Gharbiyya
Fax: + 20 4 330-2785
sadakah@tanta.edu.eg

Dr. Ali Ahmed El-Abd
President
Ain Shams University
Abbassia, 11566
Fax: +20 2 684-7824
pres@asunet.shams.edu.eg


November 30, 2005

His Excellency Husni Mubarak 
President of the Arab Republic of Egypt
`Abdin Palace
Cairo, Egypt 
Fax: +202-390-1998

Your Excellency:

I write on behalf of the Committee on Academic Freedom of the Middle East Studies Association to protest the banning in Egypt of a book published by the American University in Cairo Press, Wahhabi Islam: From Revival and Reform to Global Jihad by Natana J. DeLong-Bas for Egyptian scholarly audiences.

The Middle East Studies Association of North American (MESA) was 
founded in 1966 to promote scholarship and teaching on the Middle East and North Africa. The preeminent organization in the field, the Association publishes the International Journal of Middle East Studies and has more than 2600 members worldwide. MESA is committed to ensuring academic freedom and freedom of expression, both within the region and in connection with the study of the region in North America and elsewhere.

From reports in the press and other sources, we understand the situation to be as follows: Wahhabi Islam was originally co-published in 2004 by Oxford University Press in the United States and I.B. Tauris in the United Kingdom. This year the American University in Cairo (AUC) Press agreed to publish it in Cairo in order to make it more accessible to Egyptian scholarly audiences.

According to our information, on October 8, 2005, the AUC Press was informed that copies of the book which had arrived at Port Said would not be allowed to enter Egypt because it contained “information not in accordance with the principles of Islam and cannot be published in the Arab Republic of Egypt in this form.” The Press thereupon requested from Al Azhar Academy of Islamic Research a copy of the report specifying what parts of the book were judged objectionable. This was requested in writing three times, but no response whatsoever has been received.

The Middle East Studies Association and its Committee on Academic Freedom of course take no position on the contents of this or any other book. It is the principle of academic freedom and the rights of citizens generally to free expression and to receive and impart information which is at stake here.

These rights are guaranteed under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Egypt is a state party, and can be restricted only for sound reasons of national security, public order, or public health and morals. The banning of this book, particularly in the university setting of an academic press, clearly exceeds these permissible grounds for restriction. Furthermore, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to which Egypt is a party, states in its preamble that member states pledge 
themselves “that every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms.”

DeLong-Bas’s Wahhabi Islam is being widely discussed by Muslim and other scholars around the world who look to al-Azhar and Egypt as respected centers of Islamic learning and intellectual leadership. It would be deplorable if a ban on the book makes it impossible for Egyptian citizens to contribute constructively to this discussion. This would be particularly unfortunate at a time when democratization is under lively discussion within Egypt and your government has committed itself to significant steps in that direction.

Book-banning and similar acts of official censorship help to sustain a climate of intolerance that is debilitating to society in general and to intellectual life in particular. 

We ask you to take steps now to end official and state-sanctioned book-banning in Egypt, and thereby to affirm publicly your government’s commitment to the rights of free expression and the free flow of ideas that are fundamental to a civilized society.


Respectfully yours,
Juan R.I. Cole
MESA President

cc: Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Sheikh Mohamed Sayed Tantawi
Fax: 02-593893


November 19, 2003

Dr. Amina Hamza Mahmoud al-Guindy, Minister of Social Affairs and Insurance
3 al-Alfy Street
Cairo 
Egypt 

Your Excellency:

We are writing to you on behalf of the Middle East Studies Association of North America (MESA) and its Committee on Academic Freedom. We wish to convey our great concern that the application of the New Woman Institution (NWI) to register with the Ministry of Social Affairs be processed as speedily as possible in order that it may undertake without delay its full range of important activities. This step is essential now that the administrative court (Giza) on October 26, 2003 reversed the Ministry’s June 8, 2003 refusal – on unspecified security grounds – of the NWI’s application to register under Law 84/2002.

[MESA is...]

According to information we have received, since beginning its activities informally in 1984 and registering in 1991 under Egyptian civil law, the New Woman Institution (formerly the New Woman Research Center, NWRC) has been a significant actor in Egyptian civil society. The NWI has tirelessly campaigned on issues related to women’s human rights in particular and human rights in general. The organization has done much-needed research on women’s roles and status in Egyptian society, and made the results of this research freely available through workshops, seminars, position papers, books, articles, a newsletter, and an Arabic-language journal.

Although all human rights are of concern to MESA and its Committee on Academic Freedom, as an academic organization we are especially dedicated to promoting academic and intellectual freedom for those doing research in and about the Middle East. We believe that the NWI has done significant research on neglected and sometimes controversial topics of vital importance to Egyptian society. The following are some of the topics on which the NWI has sponsored research: negotiating women’s reproductive rights; women, law and development in the context of structural adjustment policies and political Islam; Egyptian women between state and fundamentalism; women’s image in the media; violence against women; women in NGOs; women and adult literacy, and feminist movements in Arab countries.

The unwarranted June 8, 2003 decision of the Ministry of Social Affairs to deny the NWI’s application to register came as a severe blow. MESA was therefore most pleased with the administrative court’s ruling on October 26, 2003 reversing the June decision, thus clearing the way for consideration of the NWI’s application as originally requested. The court decision’s was a strong affirmation of democracy and an expanded role for civil society institutions, human rights, and intellectual freedom in Egypt.

Our present concern is to urge that the Ministry approve the registration of the New Woman Institution as expeditiously as possible. Five months have already gone by since the original rejection, which severely inhibited the ability of the NWI to carry on its critical work. We understand, for example, that the NWI cannot access its bank account until it receives its official registration clearance from the Ministry. A prolonged or indefinite delay in approving the registration would only compound the harm to the organization and its good work. 
Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter. We look forward to your positive response. 
Sincerely, 
Amy W. Newhall
Executive Director

cc:  
His Excellency Ambassador Nabil Fahmy, Washington, DC 
U.S. Ambassador to Egypt, David C. Welch


August 13, 2002

His Excellency Hosni Mubarak
President
Republic of Egypt 

Your Excellency:

The Committee on Academic Freedom in the Middle East and North Africa (CAFMENA) of the Middle East Studies Association of North America is writing to express its deep concern over the July 29 re-conviction of Professor Saad Eddin Ibrahim and his associates at the research institute he directs, the Ibn Khaldun Center. Dr. Ibrahim, Nadia Abdel Nur, Magda Ali and Mohamed Hassanein have received prison sentences ranging from two to seven years and are currently incarcerated. We urge you to take all necessary steps to secure their immediate release from prison pending further appeals of the July 29 decision of the Supreme State Security Court. We further call on your government to rescind the orders closing the Ibn Khaldun Center, a respected and renowned independent research and public policy institute.

[MESA is...]

In November 2001, MESA’s Board of Directors awarded Dr. Ibrahim the inaugural MESA Academic Freedom Award in recognition of his “dedication to the promotion of democratic rights and civil liberties through his teaching and scholarship, and his commitment as a public intellectual to the principles of free expression and free exchange of information and ideas” as well as his “tireless advocacy of fundamental rights for all Egyptians.” 

This letter follows two earlier letters from CAFMENA, on July 11, 2000 and May 31, 2001, protesting this case. We again must voice our deep distress both at the manner in which the trial was conducted by the Supreme Security Court and the unduly harsh sentences imposed on Professor Ibrahim and his colleagues. The conduct of the Court and its verdicts confirm the essentially political nature of this case. As a committed public intellectual, Professor Ibrahim has appeared at countless conferences discussing Egypt’s development, and its political and social dilemmas, yet he and his associates are now in prison for “tarnishing Egypt’s image abroad.” Egypt has a long and distinguished tradition of producing intellectuals and writers who produce articles and books brimming with articulate ideas and thought-provoking debate. It is distressing that the government of Egypt is now imprisoning one of these same distinguished citizens and his colleagues.

The results of this trial undermine Egypt’s standing in the international community and its reputation as a state committed to the rule of law. The Court’s summary and immediate proclamation of a verdict and sentence in a case begun four months earlier after only 15 minutes of review is particularly appalling and raises question about the integrity and intentions of the Supreme State Security Court. This judicial conduct impugns the reputation of Egypt’s typical sound standards of judicial review and due process. 
We consider it a matter of greatest urgency that your government permit the immediate release of Dr. Ibrahim and his colleagues from prison, pending any appeals process. In particular, we are concerned about the deteriorating medical conditions of Dr. Ibrahim and appeal to the government for a medical release on humanitarian grounds. We further call on your government to foster conditions in which such voices and research can thrive in order for the process of democratic reform in Egypt to move forward, in accordance with its commitments under international law. This must include respect for the rights of academic researchers to undertake activities in support of peaceful political reform.

In these disturbing times of international violence and terrorism, public intellectuals and researchers like Dr. Ibrahim and his associates who are committed to the rule of law, democracy, and freedom of expression must be allowed to flourish rather than to be condemned to prison.

Respectfully yours,

Amy W. Newhall
Executive Director

cc:
His Excellency Ambassador Nabil Fahmy, Washington, DC
U.S. Ambassador to Egypt, David C. Welch
Maj-Gen Habib Ibrahim el-Adly, Minister of the Interior
His Excellency Farouq Mahmoud Seif el-Nasr, Minister of Justice


May 30, 2001

His Excellency Hosni Mubarak
President
Republic of Egypt

Your Excellency:

On July 11, 2000 the Committee on Academic Freedom in the Middle East and North Africa (CAFMENA) wrote to you to express our concerns regarding the arrest of Professor Saad Eddin Ibrahim and staff members of the Ibn Khaldun Center.

[MESA is…]

We are writing again to voice our deep distress both at the manner in which the trial was conducted by the Supreme Security Court, and the unduly harsh sentences imposed on Professor Ibrahim and his colleagues.

The conduct of the Court and its verdicts confirm the essentially political nature of this case. Further, the results of this trial undermine Egypt’s standing in the international community and its reputation as a state committed to the rule of law. The Court’s disregard of evidence provided by lawyers for the defense is especially troubling. We urge you to permit an appeal of these verdicts, an option to which Egypt is committed by virtue of international conventions your government has signed. Your intervention in support of an appeal would be an important signal of your Government’s commitment to democracy and to the full exercise of academic freedom by all Egyptians.

Respectfully yours,

Anne H. Betteridge
Executive Director

cc:
Ambassador Nabil Fahmy, Washington, DC
Maj-Gen Habib Ibrahim El-Adly, Minister of the Interior
His Excellency Farouq Mahmoud Seif el-Nasr, Minister of Justice
This letter was sent jointly by Human Rights Watch, American Association for the Advancement of Science, CAFMENA, Scholars at Risk and the New York Academy of Sciences.



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