Egypt’s Brotherhood takes fight to universities

The Muslim Brotherhood has been using violent tactics to sabotage the trial of its supreme leader, Mohammed Badie, and to thwart the referendum on the new constitution.

al-monitor Cairo University students, who are supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood and ousted Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, throw fireworks towards Egyptian security forces during a clash in front of the university, Cairo, Dec. 11, 2013. Photo by REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany.

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violence, muslim brotherhood, military, egypt crisis, egypt, constitution, al-azhar

Dec 12, 2013

The Muslim Brotherhood is targeting Egyptian universities by creating chaos, which the Brotherhood failed to spread on Egypt’s streets. Yesterday [Dec. 11], the confrontations between supporters of deposed President Mohammed Morsi and the security forces in Al-Azhar University resumed, directly instigated by the pro-Morsi Islamist coalition. This is a repeat of the chaos in Cairo University more than two weeks ago, which forced the teachers of the Faculty of Engineering to resign and announce the end of the semester.

The chaos, which was led by Brotherhood students in Egyptian universities, happened in parallel with chaos of another kind, started by Brotherhood leaders in the courtrooms, where former Brotherhood Supreme Guide Mohammed Badie disrupted the hearings, prompting the court to recuse itself from hearing the case.

Meanwhile, the Brotherhood seemed to be preparing to target the referendum on the new constitution. Yesterday, Morsi supporters assaulted members of the Salafist Nour Party who were campaigning for a “yes” vote on the referendum. The date of the referendum will be declared by interim President Adly Mansour in a televised speech Saturday [Dec. 14].

Yesterday, as part of a daily scene in front of Cairo University and Al-Azhar, violent clashes erupted between Brotherhood students and the security forces. The clashes lasted more than four hours and included Molotov cocktails, fireworks and stones. The security forces responded by firing tear gas canisters and rubber bullets, resulting in injuries and breathing problems for some students.

Elsewhere, the security forces used tear gas to disperse a student demonstration in the faculty of engineering of Minya University. The protesters hadn’t obtained the required demonstration permit from the security services as required by law.

Commenting on the university events, Egyptian Interior Minister Maj. Gen. Mohamed Ibrahim said in a news conference after the cabinet meeting that the police broke up the student demonstrations at the universities in only five minutes, pointing out that the Interior Ministry has exercised maximum restraint and thwarted the Muslim Brotherhood’s attempt to cause crises.

For his part, Prime Minister Hazem el-Biblawi said that what’s happening at the universities pleases no one and is being caused by a minority. He stressed that Egyptian police are keen on dispersing the protests without being drawn into a confrontation that could have difficult consequences, and said that the police acted prudently and professionally.

While the interior minister confirmed the police’s ability to end the chaos in the universities, the dean of the faculty of engineering at Cairo University announced the cessation of study and submitted his resignations of those faculty members because they “cannot protect the students.”

The dean of the faculty of engineering said, “The lectures of the first semester have ended. … The exams will take place on schedule, starting from Dec. 28. The students will be tested on what has been taught since the beginning of the school year.”

Omar Nasr, a faculty member at the College of Engineering, told As-Safir that “the decision to stop the lectures came from a consensus by all teachers. ... We all feel responsible. ... How can we teach the students while we cannot guarantee that they would return safely to their homes after the end of the lectures?”

The situation within Cairo University, especially at the College of Engineering, deteriorated since the death of student Mohammed Reda two weeks ago during clashes between Morsi supporters and security forces.

The person who fired the bullet that killed the student has not been identified. The students accused the Central Security Forces of firing the bullet, while the forensic spokesperson said that the bullet came from among the students.

The students of the faculty of engineering started an open-ended sit-in at the faculty. Yesterday, they pitched tents and listed a number of demands, including the withdrawal of the security forces and respect for the campus. The student union at the faculty of engineering issued a strongly worded statement that said: “Woe to the 'educational system.' ... What 'educational system' are they talking about? Is it the 'education' under the daily fog of [tear] gas? Or the 'education' amid dozens of faintings and injuries? Or the 'education' amid bloodshed all over campus? Or the 'education' at gunpoint?”

In this tense atmosphere, al-Masry al-Youm newspaper reported that the head of the 50-member constitutional committee Amr Moussa, in an attempt to resolve the crisis at the universities, held a closed-door meeting yesterday afternoon in his office at the Shura Council. It was attended by Deputy Defense Minister Maj. Gen. Mohammed al-Assar, first assistant of the interior minister Maj. Gen. Abdel Fattah Othman, the president’s adviser for women's affairs Sakina Fouad, the secretary of the 50-member committee Gaber Gad Nassar, the chairperson of the drafting committee Mustafa Abdul Jalil and five representatives of the student unions of the universities of Cairo, Helwan and Al-Azhar.

While the attendees refused to talk to reporters, Fouad issued a terse statement saying, “something good will soon be announced,” and pointing out that “the meeting happened to prevent the June 30 revolution’s infiltration and the dispersal of its supporters.”

In contrast, the Islamist pro-Morsi coalition called on the university students to “stand fast” to thwart what it called the “military coup.” The coalition’s statement said: “Dear heroic students of Al-Azhar. ... Your history is great and the struggle of your university is known. From the great Al-Azhar fort a large number of leaders, thinkers and strugglers emerged. Do not become weak. Stand fast, in all peace and redemption, in front of the tripartite aggression — by the forces of the army and the police, and under the silence of the elders of the military — taking place against your university and against the learning institutions in commemoration of the International Day of Human Rights. ... We proclaim that just as [Napoleon] Bonaparte’s massacre at Al-Azhar presaged the withdrawal of Egypt’s invaders, the continuing escalation of the revolution will accelerate the departure of the coup, the return of legitimacy, retribution and the holding of the criminals accountable.”

On the other hand, the court, which is trying the supreme leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Badie, on charges of killing demonstrators opposed to ousted President Morsi, announced that it is recusing itself from hearing the case. That happened for the second time since the trial began, thus taking the trial back to square one.

Similar to what happened in the two days before the hearing, the defendants prevented the court from going forward with the trial by chanting slogans against “military rule.” The court’s Judge Mustafa Salameh said, “We have asked the defense to try to calm the defendants down but that didn’t happen, and therefore the court decides to recuse itself from hearing the case.”

In addition to Badie, the court is trying 32 other defendants, including leading Brotherhood figures. The trial was conducted at the Institute of Police Trustees, next to Tora prison south of Cairo, where the defendants are being held.

It seems that the Brotherhood leaders decided to use this method to sabotage the trial. It seems that the Brotherhood will increase its attacks against the Salafist Nour Party in the next phase, because the party supported the new constitution. After the call to besiege the houses of the Nour Party’s leaders, the Brotherhood launched a campaign to spoil all events promoting a “yes” vote on the constitution referendum.

Yesterday, Brotherhood supporters succeeded in thwarting a conference by the Nour Party in Minya University, and the Brotherhood tried to prevent a workshop for a pro-constitution campaign in Giza.

Preacher Yasser Birhami, the vice president of the Salafist Call, said that all contacts with the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood stopped once the Nour Party and the Salafist Call supported the constitution.

Birhami added that the Salafist Call prevented young Salafists from replying to the Brotherhood supporters surrounding the houses of Nour Party leaders and chasing them. “But patience has limits,” he added.

Elsewhere, the office of the Egyptian president said that interim President Adly Mansour will address Egyptians on Saturday in a televised speech to invite them to participate in a referendum on the new constitution.

The speech will be attended by a group of senior statesmen, notably Biblawi, Al-Azhar Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb and someone representing Pope Tawadros II (who is currently out of the country). Also in attendance will be the deputy prime minister, cabinet ministers, presidential advisers, members of the Supreme Council of Judicial Bodies, the heads of the judges clubs, the heads of trade unions, the presidents of the National Council for Women and the National Council for Human Rights, representatives of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, the Supreme Council of the Police, the Supreme Press Council, the heads of Egyptian universities, the heads of workers union, of farmers union, the martyrs and wounded of the revolution, and representatives of several segments of Egyptian society.

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