Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood students push for free polls

Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood students push for free polls

Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood students push for free polls
Some 3,000 Islamists students staged a demonstration at Cairo University on Tuesday to press for increased freedom on campus and free and fair union elections next month.

"We don’t want security forces on campus, we don’t want the regime to intervene and rig student elections on November 11," said one of the organizers, Abdulmonem Ibrahim.

He said similar demonstrations were being staged in other Egyptian cities.

A security official told AFP that "dozens" had been arrested in Faiyum and Bani Sueif, south of Cairo, as they attempted to leave campus to march in the streets, which the authorities generally do not tolerate.

Male and female students demonstrated separately on Cairo University’s campus. The area was circled by hundreds of riot police to prevent them venturing onto the streets.

Ibrahim said students from other universities outside Cairo had joined the protest.

"Not all were able to make it to Cairo," he said, adding that around 100 had been turned back en route to the capital from Alexandria, north of Cairo, and Faiyum.

The men, all in their early twenties, were wearing green or yellow headbands marked "We are for reforms."

"We haven’t had free elections at least since 1995 and we decided to launch a campaign earlier this month to pressure the university administration for reforms," said another organizer, Mustafa Haydar.

Another student said the administration had so far refused dialogue. "If they don’t, we will step up our protest campaign but only using peaceful and legal means," said Mohammed Imam.

He said that the regime was interfering in student elections "the same way it rigs national elections."

"If only the Muslim Brotherhood was able to form a party and parliamentary elections were free, it would take at least a third of seats in parliament," said Imam.

The Muslim Brotherhood is officially illegal and could not field a candidate for the September 7 presidential election but is expected to make a strong showing in parliamentary polls next month, where its candidates will run as independents.

Despite allegations of fraud and irregularities, the group’s supporters won 17 seats in the 2000 parliamentary elections, more than any other opposition group.

Various reports have documented widespread infringements on freedom of expression in Egyptian universities.

But while Islamists themselves have been the target of crackdowns by state security, they have in turn been accused of seeking to restrict freedoms and imposing Islamic values on students, especially women.


©2005 AFP