Students embroiled in bloody week of protests

Egypt’s authorities detained 300 people, hundreds were wounded and a soldier died on Friday during bloody clashes between security forces and protestors – including student movements from several universities.

The demonstrators had marched to the Abbasiya area housing the Ministry of Defence in Cairo to demand transition to civilian rule and to protest a massacre earlier in the week in which 11 people were killed, including a medical student from Ain Shams University.

Friday’s ‘revolutionary march’ was led by, among others, the April 6 Movement and student groups from the universities of Cairo, Helwan and Ain Shams as well as the Coalition of Students’ Revolutions.

The protestors came under fire from the military and the violent clampdown resulted in injuries to an estimated 400 people. A number of students were arrested from the hospital of Ain Shams University.

Media reported that many of the demonstrators on Friday were ultra-orthodox Salafi Muslims angered by the disqualification of a sheikh they support, Hazem Salah Abu-Ismail, from Egypt's upcoming first presidential election on 23 May – the first since Hosni Mubarak’s fall in February 2011.

They also demanded the removal of article 28 of the constitutional declaration, which ensures absolute authority for the electoral committee's decision. Some activists also demanded an immediate military hand-over of power to a civil administration.

The authorities imposed an overnight curfew in an attempt to avert a repeat of the Friday protests, and yesterday calm returned to the volatile city.

Earlier in the week, protesters opposed to the military regime were thwarted by unidentified men outside the defence ministry. They were attacked with cement-based bombs, stones, Molotov cocktails, birdshot guns and teargas canisters.

Among the 11 dead was Abul-Hassan Ibrahim, a medical student at Ain Shams University – whose president was killed in a car accident on Wednesday after visiting victims of the revolution. Interior ministry sources said 49 people were injured.

Following the bloodshed, representatives of almost every Egyptian political group as well as politically unaffiliated Egyptians joined Friday’s march to Abbasiya.

Ahrameonline reported, for example, that students Injie Alaa and Shorouk Mohammed both skipped classes at Zagazig University in the Nile Delta to join the march and bring medical supplies for injured protesters.

“I woke up to the news and just couldn't focus on my lectures, so I decided to come," said Alaa, who strongly agrees with protesters' primary demand – that of ending military rule. "I'm not good at fighting, but at least I can reinforce the protesters and maybe help out with some medicine."

In another development Professor Alaa Fayez, president of Ain Shams University – one of Egypt’s biggest universities – was killed in a car accident on Wednesday.

Fayez had closed the university in protest against the attack, and to prevent assailants from attacking more protestors, according to a 2 May statement by the April 6 Youth Movement. He had led student demonstrations against Egypt’s military rulers and to show solidarity with the revolution.

The accident happened after the president went to visit victims of the revolution, the statement said. "He was the only university president appointed by democratic elections on campuses after the Mubarak era and he will always be in our mind and conscience.”

Fayez became president of Ain Shams in December last year.