Middle East Studies Association Protests Repeated Violations of Academic Freedom in Egypt
In an urgent appeal to Egyptian leaders and authorities, the Middle East Studies Association (MESA) has circulated a letter demanding the release of several detained Egyptian scholars and students whose academic and civic freedoms were repeatedly violated by the state. In the last few years, the Egyptian court system has accused many academics of unsubstantiated, politically motivated charges that have resulted in their mistreatment and, in some cases, the deterioration of their health.
The letter, which can be found here, outlines six different profiles, including Ahmed Samir Santawy, whose case Endangered Scholars Worldwide (ESW) has closely monitored. Having been detained since February 2021, Santawy was recently re-sentenced to three years in prison. He was initially investigated by Egyptian authorities for his research on women’s reproductive rights and his alleged social media posts that were critical of the Egyptian state’s human rights violations.
Ismail Alexandrani, a sociopolitical researcher and investigative journalist, was arrested in 2015 on baseless charges of spreading false news abroad. Marwa Arafa, a translator, and Dr. Ahmed Al Tohamy Abdel-Hay, an assistant professor of political science, have faced numerous renewed detention sentences without trial. A PhD candidate at the University of Washington, Waleed Khalil el-Sayed Salem, continues to face a travel ban without having been charged with a crime, while Patrick George Zaki, a student at the University of Bologna, waits for an impending trial. ESW also reported on Zaki’s case in March of 2020. For a full explanation of their cases, please see MESA’s letter here.
Like MESA, ESW is committed to raising public awareness and support for intellectuals, academics, researchers, and students who have been threatened, silenced, or imprisoned simply for doing their scholarly work or speaking out against the injustices around them. In this case, the repeated injustices perpetrated against Egyptian scholars and students are highly alarming and demand close attention from the global academic community. As MESA notes, these restrictions on academic freedom in Egypt constitute violations of the 2014 Egyptian Constitution’s Article 65, which guarantees freedom of speech and freedom in all means of expression and publications, and of Article 23, which provides for freedom of scientific research.
ESW supports MESA’s call for the Egyptian government to immediately release and drop the charges against Ahmed Samir Santawy, Ismail Alexandrani, Marwa Arafa, Ahmed Al Tohamy Abdel-Hay, and Patrick George Zaki. We echo MESA’s demand to allow Waleed Salem to move freely and reunite with this family and continue his studies. ESW urges all international organizations, academic and professional associations, and other groups and individuals devoted to the promotion and defense of human rights to write to the following representatives and to the diplomatic missions of Egypt in your respective countries urging the Egyptian government to drop the charges and immediately release these detainees:
Ambassador Yasser Reda
Egyptian Embassy to the United States
3521 International Ct. NW
Washington DC 20008
Mohamed Fathi Ahmed Edrees
Egyptian Permanent Representative to the United Nations
800 Second Avenue
New York, NY 10017