It is clear that the Brotherhood has lost people’s sympathy and their demonstrations are now restricted to those few who back the ‘Alliance Supporting Legitimacy’. Thus, the group is now staging their protests in universities, especially because they contain large sectors of young Egyptians.
The Brotherhood’s plans are afoot to make the universities a center for attracting angry supporters of the 30 June revolution. Those embittered young people who feel that the course of the revolution does not fulfill their dreams of democracy, pluralism and freedom of expression. This plan relies on a wide range of demonstrations and riots in a manner threatening the stability of the regime and the administrative system in universities. It wants universities to be a starting point for protests to prove the regime unable to maintain control in the country after 30 June revolution.
The government failed to face this demonic scheme or to come up with a counter plan to foil the Brotherhood’s strategy. The reason behind this is that the government’s plan is focused only on the security procedures and the dismissal of riotous students.
The government plan did not differentiate between the Brotherhood students who incite violence and the large segment of students who just look forward to enjoying their right of free expression. Definitely, there are students who want to take part in political activities within the framework of university rules and regulations. This plan did not take into account the historical and political role carried out by the student movement throughout Egypt’s history, which was one of the main tributaries of the Egyptian national movement. The government will not be able to control the situation in universities without revising the security procedures and arrangements, and broadening its political horizon to deal with these situations. It also cannot deny the students’ right to peaceful expression while being an active part of the political process. It must bear in mind that various successive governments in Egypt could not break the students’ will and abolish their political rights.
Distinction should be made between violence and vandalism done by specific Brotherhood-affiliated groups on the one hand, and the right to peaceful expression and to fulfil the historical role of the students’ movement on the other hand. The latter is the demand by the larger mass of students. Violence and vandalism is not a right in any way. It is a crime punishable by law. But peaceful expression of opinion is a right guaranteed by the constitution and the law. It should be protected and supported.
The present situation requires organising events to open a dialogue between the students and the university administration and professors. Seminars and conferences can be held to address the students’ problems and listen to their legitimate demands to release their colleagues who were not involved in any act of violence. The students, the administration and the professors must all participate in introducing a roadmap as a way out of the current situation. This roadmap defines the students’ political role and how they can exercise their rights to peaceful expression within the framework of the constitution and law. It will protect the right to have different views and perceptions without hindering the educational system or sabotaging the university facilities.
Restricting ourselves to the security aspect in dealing with the situation in the universities will have major repercussions and allow the Brotherhood’s plan to be implemented, and then gain success. Meanwhile, security bodies cannot shoulder the responsibility of solving political problems, and if this situation continues then both security and political solutions will probably end in a deadlock.
What is required is a new perspective to exercise political rights once again in Egyptian universities in a manner consistent with the constitution and the law and that does not allow vandalism and violence. This perspective should be shared by all parties in question without exception. That is to say: the government, executive authority, students and professors.
Abdel-Alim Mohamed is a counsellor at Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies.