Student protesters in Cairo University. The sign reads: "It is forbidden for the police to enter university campuses." (Photo:Mai Shaheen)
Thousands of Cairo University students began demonstrating early Sunday against the murder of their colleague Mohamed Reda who died Thursday amid clashes with security forces.
The protests started at the university's Faculty of Engineering, were hundreds of angry students chanted against the Ministry of Interior and 'military rule' while carrying aloft photos of their colleagues slain over the past month in clashes with security forces.
The faculty's main building, upon which students had hung a banner that read "Closed by order of the students" had been closed since early morning.
Last month, the same faculty lost two students in clashes with security forces. Student and activist Mahmoud Abdel-Hakim was killed on 19 November during the second anniversary commemoration of the deadly 2011 Mohamed Mahmoud clashes. Student Mohamed Reda was killed on Thursday during clashes with security forces in Cairo University.
Students from other faculties -- including Economics and Political Sciences, Pharmacy and Medicine -- also joined the protests. The rallies headed to the university dome located by the main gate, where protesters chanted against security forces and 'military rule'. Some of the rallies then flowed outside the campus onto Giza's Al-Nahda Square.
The Cairo University dome witnessed a small clash between non-Islamist student protesters and pro-Moslem Brotherhood "Students against the Coup" over the conflicting slogans chanted by the two groups. The pro-Brotherhood students chanted slogans in support of ousted president Morsi, while the other group chanted against "Feloul [Mubarak-era supporters] the Brotherhood and the military."
Although the brief clashes ended with an agreement for the unified slogan "one hand" as well chants against military rule, the "Students against the Coup" reportedly remained unwelcomed at the Faculty of Engineering – located outside the Cairo University main campus.
Security forces, whether army or police, withdrew from all Cairo University gates as well from Al-Nahda Square. A group of angry students – whose political affiliation remains unclear – torched a police vehicle while protesting at Al-Nahda Square outside the main campus.
Protests decrying Reda's killing extended to other universities – especially the faculties of engineering – with reported rallies at the universities of Ain Shams, Al-Azhar, Beni Sueif, Minya and Helwan. Student unions at various universities called for a strike and the suspension of study.
The Cairo University administration issued a statement on Saturday holding the security forces and Ministry of Interior responsible for Reda's death. The statement announced that the university was documenting "the [on-campus] attack" against its students with photographs, video clips and student testimonies to follow up on the matter with a legal team.
The university also demanded the immediate release of its students for the continuation of their studies. Security forces had arrested four students from the Faculty of Engineering, accusing them of killing their colleague Mohamed Reda.
Gaber Nassar, the Cairo University president, also criticised the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Higher Education for their statements denying that Central Security Forces had exercised extreme use of force or fired birdshot inside the campus.
The university administration announced a 3-day state of official mourning for Reda's death, without suspension of study.
Students performed the prayer of the dead in remembrance of fallen collegues.
Nassar joined grieving students for a moment of silence.
The protests follow weeks of tension and clashes at a number of universities, including Al-Azhar between Islamist students and security forces.
The student union at Ain Shams faculty of engineering students had held a strike during the mid-term examinations last week to push for the release of their colleagues arrested during various clashes, regardless of their political affiliation.