Post-revolution, Cairo University has witnessed its first student union elections free from government pressures, as well as the end of state security presence on campus. However, problems still are not ironed out.
Opposition students, previously forced out of the election process, have won 120 seats (28% of the total). A coalition called Al-Ahrar (The Free Students), which includes Muslim Brotherhood, socialists and independent activists have united to campaign for their list of candidates.
Previously, candidates who did not get state security approval to run were banned from participating and sometimes subjected to interrogation.
One such example is MB member and student at Cairo University, Salman Imam, who says he nominated himself without getting state security approval and was subsequently interrogated.
Imam says “these elections were very different [from the previous ones] on many levels. Firstly, we had three days to campaign and three days to vote. Before the revolution the university would surprise us with the date of the elections by announcing it only 24 hours beforehand so we did not get a chance to submit the required papers for nomination. Those who were not approved by state security but were able to submit the required papers on time were marked off the list and subjected to interrogation. This time three of the coalition members met with the minister and were given guarantees that all students would be allowed to participate. Considering the short time we had to advertise and campaign, I think that 120 seats was a good outcome.”
The minister of higher education declared that the university would abide by a court ruling that ordered the removal of state security presence on campus. State university students had long campaigned against state security presence inside universities and after the 25 January revolution finally won the court case that removed them.
However, Osama Ahmed, university student and member of Al-Ahrar coalition, says that the university security effectively took up the same role played by state security guards on campus, compromising student freedom.
Ahmed argued that university security has interfered to ruin the sit-in staged by students for the past weeks demanding the resignation of the head of the university.
Ahmed says “university security guards say that female students participating in the sit-in are not allowed to stay overnight on campus. Some of them have thrown stones to destroy the students’ tents.”
Since 6 March Cairo University students have been staging a sit-in denouncing corruption and demanding the resignation of the university’s president and his administrative council.