|Photographed by محمد عبد الغني|
Hundreds of Egyptian students on Monday protested in front of the Ministry of Higher Education against police brutality on university campuses.
Students from 12 opposition movements–in particular those affiliated with the banned Muslim Brotherhood–chanted anti-police slogans.
“We came here to shed light on the regime’s policies that torture students, discriminate against them and prevent them from exercising their political rights,” said Muslim Brotherhood student at Cairo University Abubakr Hamdy.
Last week, Somiya Ashraf, a female student at Al-Azhar University’s branch in the Nile delta city of Zaqazeeq was allegedly assaulted by a university security guard. University officials denied the claim.
The demonstrators distributed a press release condemning “the continuation of the systematic violations of the Ministry of Interior against students.”
The statement went on to call for the “expulsion of the security guards affiliated with the Ministry of Interior from university campuses,” and investigating the “violations committed by the police officers against students.”
“What happened to Somiya is not exceptional. Students are subjected to security harassment on a daily basis,” said Afaf Mamdouh, a Cairo university student affiliated with the 6 of April Youth Movement.
Mamdouh added that it’s becoming hard for students to “act in any independent way. The regime is getting mad before the upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections. The security doesn’t want any kind of opposition within the universities.”
Last year, Mamdouh was among 59 students barred from taking exams because of her participation in anti-regime activities on campus.
In related developments, opposition student groups claimed university officials at Cairo University have disqualified dozens of student union candidates.
Cairo University was under heavy security Monday. Hundreds of riot police and plainclothes police officers lined the front of the university. A number of journalists were denied entrance to the campus.
“Today is not an ordinary day. We can’t risk. We have to be here and ready for any moves by the illegal groups inside the university,” said a high-ranking interior ministry official, who requested anonymity.
An official from the public relations department at Cairo University, who also requested anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the press, said the “university is full of security forces monitoring what’s going on. We declare today an emergency because of the (student union) elections.”
At Ain Shams University, faculties’ representatives were chosen without competition. Elections were held in only four–out of a total 17–faculties.
Mohammed Kuriyim, from Zaqazeeq University, said university officials managed to ensure ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) support among elected candidates by removing 61 Muslim Brotherhood candidates.
“The Mubarak regime is silencing every single voice and want everything to be quiet in order to focus on how to fraud the next elections,” said Abdel Galil Moustafa, coordinator of Mohamed ElBaradei’s National Association for Change (NAC).
In addition to Muslim Brotherhood students, police have cracked down on pro-ElBaradei student supporters on university campuses.
“The regime can’t survive without manipulating the elections,” said Moustafa. “They manipulate the municipality, parliamentary, presidential and of course the student elections.”