Academics wonder if court ban on university guards be followed through

Academics wonder if court ban on university guards be followed through

A recent court ruling barring guards and security personnel from university grounds is being celebrated by students, academics and intellectuals despite controversy  about its enforcement.

The court ruled Saturday that the permanent presence of the Interior Ministry’s police forces inside the university campuses was a violation of the constitution which stipulates that independence be guaranteed to the universities.

A previous court ruling was upheld by the High Administrative Court ordering any security guards affiliated with the Ministry of Interior vacate the Cairo University premises. The ruling comes at a time when the country has witnessed a clampdown by university officials, in collaboration with police guards, against students affiliated with the political opposition.

Violations include a large number of students being transferred to the prosecution office before undergoing trial and the beating of Somaya Ashraf, a student affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood at the Al-Azhar University branch in Zagazig.

According to student accounts, security forces also barred politically active students’ access to university dormitories, particularly in Cairo.

Hassan Nafaa, professor of political science at Cairo University and the general coordinator of the reform group, the National Association for Change, students’ union elections indicate how the university is managed by the Ministry of Interior. He asserted that during the student elections students’ names were removed from the university’s electoral lists.

Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif on Sunday however maintained that such measures were intended to protect the safety of both students and professors on campus.

Criticism against security however differs from one university campus to another. Universities in Cairo and Alexandria include more students supporting opposition groups including 6 April Youth Movement and the NAC, however students affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, constitute the biggest opposition voice on public university campuses.

MB activists Mohamed Alkassas ascertained that the MB dominates the whole scene in governorate-based universities.  Alkassas explains that regulations dating to 1979 indicate that security should be present to protect university buildings. President Anwar Sadat issued in 1979 new regulations for universities in which he ordered the police to guard campuses.

In short activists describe that educational establishments such as universities have become a branch of the Ministry of Interior.