Junior demonstration organizer, Ahmed Samir, addresses forum attendees (Photo: Amr Kotb)
Students at the American University of Cairo (AUC) held an outdoor forum to address the five-year prison sentences handed down to their colleagues Abdallah Ghandour and Abdel-Rahman Boghdady last Tuesday, 29 April. The forum is the latest in a series of actions students have taken since Ghandour and Boghdady were detained during a demonstration in Nasr City in December.
The forum – attended by over 100 students and a handful of faculty members – was meant to serve as a space for suggestions and discussion on possible courses of action.
Taher El-Moataz Bellah – graduating senior and former president of AUC's Student Union – felt that the students couldn't wait for the administration’s assistance.
Speaking to the forum’s attendees, he reminded them that “Ghandour and Boghdady are merely two of many students who have been unjustly arrested throughout the country” and that the group should seek to join fellow students with the same cause at other universities across Egypt.
Bellah also suggested that students collect funds to assist detained students with fines or bail. Suggestions by other students included getting the word out to international human rights organisations such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty international.
The chair of AUC’s School of Electrical Engineering, Ayman El-Ezabi, also spoke at the forum, reminding students that they attend a university that is much more open to protests than others such as Cairo University and Al-Azhar University – where demonstrations since the start of the academic term last year have been met with violence and an increased police presence.
El-Ezabi asked students to “take advantage of this” and continue to enlist the support of the AUC community.
Although AUC President Lisa Anderson did not attend the student forum, Vice President of Student Affairs Khaled Dahawi partly addressed the administration’s perspective.
While Dahawi stated that his presence and support for the cause was "purely from a personal point of view," he added that the university was taking action behind the scenes. Dahawi also explained that the administration's approach is "solely academic," meaning that the university is taking measures to allow students to continue their coursework or minimise setbacks upon their release.
This past Sunday, students gathered on the steps of the School of Science and Engineering to hand out fliers, display signs and rally the support of their fellow students.
This demonstration came on the heels of a sit-in staged outside Anderson's office following Boghdady and Ghandour's verdict on 30 April.
The student protesters are part of a movement called AUCians Against Military Rule, a student activist group dedicated to fighting against "zulm", an Arabic term which loosely translates to injustice.
According to senior political science major Jihad Abaza, the group has been active since the fall semester and has been demonstrating on behalf of Ghandour and Boghdady since their detention in December.