German University students attacked by security guards

Randa Ali , Saturday 22 Sep 2012

Security guards assault German University in Cairo students who tried to bring transparent ballot boxes onto their campus for a long-awaited referendum Saturday

GUC student and security quarrel Saturday morning over ballot boxes (Photo: Engie Yasser)

Around four German University in Cairo (GUC) students were injured allegedly by the university's security guards on the day of a long-awaited referendum on student union bylaws.

"We announced that we're holding a referendum on the student union bylaws on 22 and 23 September, which will give us more independence and less interference from the university in decision-making," said a management student at GUC who requested to remain anonymous.

The management student told Ahram Online that students brought glass ballot boxes in an attempt to have a transparent and professional referendum, but security guards refused to allow them on campus.

"We had to drop the boxes over the fence. A security guard caught one and threw it at a student," he recalled.

The student, who abstained from revealing his identity for fear of creating "further problems," was himself injured, allegedly by the university's head of security, Mohamed Abou El-Enein.

"I put the box that I was holding down, only to find him punching me. He also hit another girl who was trying to help us with the boxes. She fell on the floor and was injured, as well."

"They could have easily told us why the boxes were not permissible and we could have found an alternative instead of beating us," he argued.

The students, however, who are keen to go on with their longed-for referendum, managed to calm the situation and the voting process is currently taking place with hundreds of students reportedly participating.

GUC students have been battling their university's administration for almost a year and a half, just after Hosni Mubarak's ouster in February 2011, with students seeking an independent Student Union (SU). In March of that year they succeeded in establishing the first student union in the history of the eight-year-old university.

"The SU's bylaws were established by the university. It was almost a copy-and-paste of the bylaws used at public universities, with additions by our administration," complained Hassan Othman former vice president of GUC' student union.

Othman, however, adds that the bylaws were complicated and they petitioned the university to change it, "and they welcomed the idea."

"After working on a proposal for the new bylaws and deciding to put up for referendum, the university then backtracked. The administration dissolved the SU and sent an email to the GUC community claiming that we – the SU – are threatening to attack the university's security," added Othman.

The debate over the bylaws flared up again after two students were expelled following an on-campus protest that condemned the death of an ultras Ahly member in the Port Said stadium attack on fans that left around 74 dead, including GUC student, Karim Khozam.

During the 20-day sit-in that followed the student's expulsion, the administration simply ignored the students' demand for new bylaws.

The GUC students are not alone in their post-revolution struggles.

Security forces raided a peaceful student sit-in at the Nile University last week. The students are in danger of losing their campus to renowned chemist Ahmed Zwail, to whom the government gave the land to create Zwail City for Science and Technology.

On Thursday, students at one of Cairo's most established campuses, the American University in Cairo, escalated their protest against the raise in tuition fees by closing the university gates.

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