The ground reverberated beneath the students' feet as they marched towards the Administration Building. Palestinian flags fluttered proudly in the air as a symbol of defiance and unwavering support. Clad in black, the students epitomized the unity and strength that came from a collective cause.
The sun blazed overhead as students from the American University in Cairo gathered on the campus grounds. Determination burned in their eyes, their hearts beating with a shared purpose. The war raging in Gaza had ignited a fire within them, compelling them to take action and stand in solidarity with their fellow brothers and sisters.
Chants echoed through the university with the pounding of their footsteps. "From the heart of the American University, Palestine is Arab!" they cried out, their voices filled with passion and conviction. The words echoed through the crowded campus, reaching the ears of those who dared to ignore the plight of the Gazans.
"With our soul and our blood, we will redeem you, Palestine!" The chant rose powerfully, a vow echoing from generation to generation. It was a testament to the students' determination and commitment to stand against the injustice inflicted on the people of Palestine.
As they marched, the students called out slogans that spoke to the essence of their cause. "We stand against Israel!" they proclaimed, their voices resolute. They understood that this was not just about politics or borders but about the fundamental human rights of a people suffering the consequences of an oppressive conflict.
The march continued, gaining momentum with each step. The students' voices united as they chanted, "Bomb once, bomb a hundred times, Gaza will remain Arab!"
These words echoed with defiance, affirming that no matter how many times Gaza was targeted, its spirit would endure.
Student leaders emerged, their voices filled with the passion of their convictions. They evoked both the Islamic and Arab basis for their cause, reminding everyone that this was not just a matter of political solidarity but also a deeply rooted cultural and religious connection.
A Student Body Mobilizes
The American University in Cairo bore witness to a powerful display of unity as its student body mobilized in support of the Palestinian cause. Yehia, a Computer Science student, addressed the crowd on Wednesday, expressing his profound admiration for the solidarity exhibited by their Egyptian friends. He stated, "I've seen a lot of beautiful things from the solidarity of all our Egyptian friends standing right next to us, being with us, expressing the madness we are seeing right now." Yehia emphasized the imperative of taking a firm stance, declaring, "A neutral stance is not an option." He called upon his fellow students to unite behind a shared cause and to ensure their demands were met.
Dr. Hana El-Sabea, an Associate Professor of Sociology and Anthropology, spoke on Thursday, commending the students for their unequivocal rejection of genocide and extreme violence. She acknowledged the historical context of the conflict, asserting that the events in Palestine were not isolated but stemmed from a long history of violence and elimination. Dr El-Sabea voiced her pride in the students' unwavering dedication and pledged to support their ongoing pressure for change, stating, "We will continue to do as much as we are capable of; we will keep on pressuring for this to continue."
Malak, a political science student, explained why she participated in the protests saying “Our grandfathers have not stopped fighting for Palestine, neither did our fathers, neither will we. We will not stop resisting the Zionist, apartheid occupation.”
Ahmed, a Sociology major, expressed his frustration with the lack of international action, declaring, "No one from the international community or the countries in the world is taking a stand." He criticized the absence of a rightful stance against those terrorizing a land that does not belong to them, emphasizing, "This is real terrorism."
Lina, a Political Science and Economics Major, expressed her pride in participating in the protests, stating, "I felt very proud to be standing on my campus voicing my opinion very loud and clear, chanting, and trying to voice out the voices of the Palestinian students at AUC as well." She highlighted the significance of their third protest, underscoring their unwavering commitment to the Palestinian cause.
Ahmed Ayman, the Vice President of the Student Union and a Construction Engineering student, highlighted the gravity of the situation, stating, "This is something that has recurred for more than 70 years. But the thing is, this time it's a mass genocide, mass genocide and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people." Ahmed conveyed the student union's swift action to support their brothers and sisters in Gaza, sharing, "We changed our marketing. We stopped all events and we took to the grounds of AUC Plaza to portray our perspectives and our standpoints." He condemned the university's silence, asserting that neutrality aligned with the oppressors and invaders, stating, "We condemned such an action and we condemned the university's standpoint."
Sana Fayek, the Chairperson of Representation of the Student Union and an Economics major, described the student body's initiative to show solidarity with Palestinians and protest the university's neutrality. She criticized the administration's Instagram post featuring a blank map of Palestine, asserting, "It was completely unacceptable." Sana outlined the various actions by the students, including walks of solidarity and marches with the Red Crescent. She emphasized the importance of donations and conveyed their unwavering commitment, stating, "This isn't the last thing. We're not doing this for any other cause besides standing in solidarity with the Palestinian people and our Palestinian spirits."
The mobilization of the American University in Cairo's student body demonstrated their resolute dedication to the Palestinian cause. With impassioned speeches, organized protests, and unwavering determination, they united their voices to denounce violence and demand justice. Their profound impact extended beyond the confines of the university, resonating globally and serving as a testament to the power of collective action in the pursuit of justice.
Response from the University Administration
In response to the student protests and demands for a clear stance, the President of the American University in Cairo, Ahmed Dallal, issued a statement. The President, the provost, and other senior leaders attended the demonstration in Bassily Auditorium to express solidarity with the students and listen to their concerns. President Dallal acknowledged the students' outrage at the atrocities in Gaza and the devastating bombing of a hospital, stating, "I know that our students, faculty, and staff are deeply impacted by these events, some of them losing family members and loved ones." He emphasized the university's commitment to supporting affected students and providing necessary assistance.
The President announced several actions by the university in response to the situation, remarking, "We have lowered our flags to half-mast and join Egypt in mourning the loss of innocent lives in Gaza." He urged faculty members to show maximum support by accommodating students during these challenging times. President Dallal reaffirmed the university's commitment to fostering a safe space for expression, discussion, and debate, assuring students that their voices would continue to be heard on campus. He invited the students to an open and honest discussion of the historical roots of the Palestinian struggle, stressing his personal connection to the region and his deep concern for the loss of innocent lives.
However, some students expressed disappointment with the university's response. Hana, a political science student, criticized the administration for its mild and neutral support. She said the university "has only addressed the suffering of the Palestinians but has not pointed to the party responsible for causing that suffering. It has not condemned any of the actions by Israel." Hana believed that the university should have shown stronger support through concrete actions.
In a surprising turn of events, President Dallal and Provost Ehab Abdel-Rahman made an unexpected appearance during the protests on Wednesday. Sana Fayek, the Chairperson of Representation of the Student Union, recounted the moment, saying, "It was an active decision that we as the Student Union would lead the march towards the admin building so that they can hear us, but we never expected them to come down. That was the highlight of this entire week." Sana described an emergency meeting where student representatives presented their demands and engaged in negotiations with the administration.
While the response from the university administration was met with mixed reactions from the student body, the presence of President Dallal and the initiation of dialogues signalled a willingness to engage further with the students' concerns. The ongoing discussions and negotiations between student representatives and the administration hinted at a potential shift in the university's approach to the Palestinian cause, leaving room for hope and further engagement in the pursuit of justice.