Expelled students to return to studies, say Egypt's GUC strikers

Bel Trew, Friday 16 Mar 2012

As student sit-in enters third week, German University in Cairo strikers report GUC Vice President confirmed expelled students will be reinstated; Friday protest continues as other demands not fulfilled yet

The German University in Cairo (GUC) student sit-in witnessed a victory Friday when Vice President for Academic Affairs, Dr. Slim Abdennadher, visited the protest to announce that the two expelled students Amr Abd El-Wahab and Hassan Ziko, would be allowed to return to their studies.

Although there has been no official statement yet, the senior professor told those protesting that the two students could expect an email from the university administration confirming their re-instatement on Saturday.

"It’s the first step," says Ahmad Aggour, 24, a GUC graduate and supporter of the sit-ins. "The strike has successfully put pressure on the administration, particularly because it had the support of students from other universities and significant media coverage."

GUC students, graduates and supporters have staged a sit-in at the university campus for over two weeks after the university decided to expel two students and ban three others from classes for their political activities. Students had staged a demonstration at the university on 18 February including screening Kazeboon footage,an informal street cinema initiative, showing video evidence of abuses committed by Egypt's security forces.

The expulsion of the students sparked uproar among Egypt's student community and quickly won the support of other universities across the country. The protests gained further momentum on account of the death of GUC student Karim Khouzam. The first year management student was killed in the Port Said stadium disaster, which saw the deaths of over 74 football fans in post-match clashes which many blamed on the negligence of Egypt's security forces.

In addition the students have been calling for new student union laws and greater transparency of GUC's administrative policies. They have also demanded that all placards referring to former president Hosni Mubarak be removed and that Ibrahim El-Demiry, a member of the university's board of trustees responsible for investigating the case, step down.

"We need a whole new structure. Last year's student union wrote draft bylaws, referring to the connection between the students and the university," explained Sheshtawy, 24, a Computer Science GUC graduate who was part of the 2011 student union. Sheshtawy has been prevented from collecting his official graduate certificate, needed for job applications and military service, as well as been temporarily banned from the university campus on account of his recent political activities. He was told he was "expelled" despite graduating over a year ago.

"The university so far doesn't have clear policies, meaning they can expel someone without giving a defined reason. They can say simply say you broke with policy but we don't know what the rules are," he explained.

The students plan to hold a referendum on the student-written draft laws after which they will hold student union elections.  Currently, according to Aggour, they are deciding whether to put the sit-in on hold following the reinstatement of the expelled students.

However hundreds still turned out for their protest Friday in front of the Journalists' Syndicate, which they decided not to cancel, as, Aggour explains, "there are many more demands which need to be fulfilled."  

Hundreds of students from other academic instutions such as Modern Sciences and Arts University, the British University in Egypt, the American University in Cairo and the Saint Fatima School have shown solidarity with the GUC strikers.

"If we succeed in our demands this will be a win for Egyptian students around Egypt as more than one student union is facing trouble," explained Sheshtawy. "That is why everyone is focusing on the GUC, when this finishes there were will more than one uprising of students around the country."

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