The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy condemns the April 2 bombing at Cairo University that targeted Egyptian security forces, killing a senior Egyptian police officer and wounding several of his colleagues. Ajnad Misr, an extremist group that has claimed responsibility for several other bombings around the Cairo area, has claimed responsibility for the explosions.
The bombings were only the most recent instance of the ongoing violence on Egyptian university campuses that has crescendoed over the past week. On March 26, two students were killed as protests filled seven Egyptian universities and police moved to disperse them. Cairo University itself was the site of large-scale violence and one of that day’s fatalities. Protests have continued nearly every day at al-Azhar University in Cairo, including deadly clashes on Sunday, March 30.
Since the removal of President Muhammad Morsi in July 2013, universities have served as a rallying point for various causes, including many related to support of the Muslim Brotherhood. The ongoing unrest that these groups have instigated led to a court ruling allowing the reinstatement of security forces on campuses in February. This highly controversial move reversed a 2010 directive that banned police forces from entering campuses, prompting assurances from the Ministry of the Interior later in March that security forces would intervene only when demonstrators “[spread] chaos or [attacked] buildings during the academic term.”
University officials have responded to protests by expelling dozens of students suspected of coordinating protests. The deaths at al-Azhar led administrators at that school to allow security forces to permanently return to the campus. Nevertheless, protests continued, with many of the protests ending in violence and different entities claiming responsibility.
The complex nature of the protests has made it difficult to provide any general characterization of them as a whole, which has at times led to the spread of misinformation. Generally, protests have begun as pro-Morsi demonstrations, some of which transformed into protests against the presence of police on campuses. Most recently, they have featured opposition to the recent deaths of protestors. One eyewitness report that Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated students raised the al-Qaeda flag was later called into question on social media.
TIMEP reminds the Egyptian government of its responsibility to protect and promote the right to peacefully protest—students do not surrender those rights when they pass through campus gates. A clear and coherent set of guidelines for state security that reflect the United Nations’ Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials should be adopted. The Basic Principles, among other items, require that, “in the dispersal of assemblies that are unlawful but non-violent, law enforcement officials shall avoid the use of force or, where that is not practicable, shall restrict such force to the minimum extent necessary.”
The April 2 Cairo University bombings are inexcusable and unlawful. TIMEP urges the government to undertake thorough and impartial investigation into this event. A cooperative effort between ministries and university officials is necessary to root out any violent offenders, to maintain stability on campuses, and to avoid further escalation of violence. TIMEP supports the efforts of university administrations to ensure that all students can access university campuses as safe places of learning and deliberation and as places where they may exercise their right to peaceful protest.
The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy (TIMEP) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to raising awareness of democratic transitions in the Middle East through analysis, advocacy, and action.