Students protest at universities, join general strike

Students protested at several universities in Egypt yesterday, and there were reports that an American student had been arrested for allegedly bribing people to join a strike. Student unions at around 20 public and private universities had called for a general strike, prompted by anger at continued military rule and post-football match violence at Port Said stadium in which 74 people were killed, including at least two students.

Students protested at several universities across Egypt, and many others joined public demonstrations. It was reported that student councils and professors at 11 universities intended to cancel classes for three days to participate in the strike.

USA Today said that the authorities appeared to be continuing to act against foreigners they believe have been "stirring up trouble". Egyptian police said an Australian journalist and an American student had been arrested after being accused of trying to bribe people to join the strike, the newspaper added.

The protestors' plan is for the strike to be escalated to civil disobedience until demands are met for a handover of power to a civilian government and prosecution of those responsible for the football killings, although it does not appear that the action will be followed by the majority of Egyptians.

The students hold both the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces and the Interior Ministry accountable for the carnage that took place on 1 February after a match between Cairo's Al-Ahly and Port Said's Al-Masry teams. They have repeated statements made by members of parliament blaming the police for both incompetence and complicity.

The strike coincided with the first anniversary of the toppling of former President Hosni Mubarak.

On 2 February the student union of the German University in Cairo (GUC) issued a demand, via its Facebook page, for the supreme council to step down immediately and hand over power to an elected civil authority.

The student union also wants withdrawal of confidence from Kamal El-Ganzoury's cabinet, holds it accountable for crimes and calls for forming a revolutionary cabinet capable of fulfilling the people's demands.

The statement said that GUC student Karim Khouzam, a freshman studying management, was among those massacred at the stadium.

Similar calls to escalate protests and sit-ins on campus to strikes, class boycotts and civil disobedience have been issued by student unions at many other Egyptian universities.

They include the American University in Cairo (AUC), Ain Shams University, Zagazig University, the Arab Academy for Science, Technology and Maritime Transport, the French University in Egypt, Modern Sciences and Arts University, Modern Academy, Nile University and Cairo University.

The AUC announced that Omar Mohsen, an economics senior due to graduate in February, was among those killed during the Port Said violence.

According to Caravan, the voice of the AUC in the Cairo community, the student union has called for three days of mourning with university flags lowered as a sign of respect for Mohsen and other ‘martyrs’.

“State-run media have been connecting such chaotic events to the revolution to scare people from instability. However, these events took place directly after the cancellation of the state of emergency and the interrogation of the interior minister in parliament [in which he claimed] the impossibility of a complete cancellation of emergency law,” the AUC student union's statement said.

The supreme council, it added, was “seeking to systematically discipline the youth forces that have participated in the revolution”.

The union also called for trying all cabinets that have governed Egypt over the past year, holding them accountable for their complicity in supreme council crimes.

According to a report published on 4 February by Ahram Online, students at Cairo University’s political science and economics faculties have released “a statement of mourning”.

In the statement the students demand that those responsible for the Port Said stadium deaths and the killing of protesters near the Ministry of Interior and cabinet building in the past months be put on trial immediately.

They also demand that the government, whom ‘revolutionary forces’ blame for the atrocities, be restructured and cleared of former regime loyalists.

The students, who played a leading role in the one-year-old Egyptian revolution, are insisting on prompt presidential elections and are demanding a strong reaction from parliament to the recent violence.

And in a 4 February Facebook statement posted by the April 6 Youth Movement under the slogan “Stay at Home”, a campaign called “Egyptian People on Strike” asks all Egyptians to go on strike until the demands of the revolution are met and until the supreme council steps down.

Commenting on the developments Magdi Tawfik Abdelhamid, a researcher at Cairo's National Research Centre, told University World News: “What is happening in Egypt is a very clear example of the harmful impact of political instability and social unrest on the performance of universities and the development of the higher education sector.”