Journalists flew into a rage when Mohamed Abdel Qudos, board member of the press syndicate and head of the freedoms committee, closed a press conference of the Egyptian Student Union (ESU) without giving them a chance to ask questions.
“Whoever wants to ask questions can talk with the members of ESU outside” yelled one of the organisers, but the journalists shouted back saying “we’re not here to listen and applaud, we’re here to ask and reveal truths in front of everyone” and “why do you hold a press conference if you don’t want the press to ask?”
The conference was held on Sunday at the press syndicate in view of the latest developments on the disputed university bylaws drafted by ESU.
Student unions of seven universities, including Cairo and Helwan, along with many political parties rejected the bylaws saying that the ESU was dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood.
The conference started with the reading of Quranic verses, then Abdel Qudos made an introduction saying that students used to protest against tyranny on the stairs of the press syndicate while security surrounded them, ”now with the atmosphere of change, the bylaws had to be changed too.”
“We had a great mission, drafting the bylaws that represent the youth of the revolution” said Ahmed Omar, president of ESU and college students’ representative at the Constituent Assembly, and allegedly a member of the Muslim Brotherhood.
He explained that the finalised version guarantees administrative and financial independence and provides more freedom and legitimacy for the students’ union and university students in general.
“They say we want to ‘brotherhoodize’ universities. I dare anyone to point out one clause that serves a certain ideology” Omar said.
He added that movements and parties like 6 April (Ahmed Maher front), Al-Adl party and the Freedom and Justice party (FJP) have offered their suggestions and help with the draft; while those who rejected it should come forward with their objections.
“The draft covers everything, we even wanted to include privately-owned universities but the law was a huge obstacle” Omar said. He added that they supported the students of the German University in Cairo (GUC), American University in Cairo (AUC) and Nile University in their protests.
Sohaib Abdallah, vice president of ESU, said the parties announced their rejection of the drafts on 23 September, before it was issued. “We held workshops and seminars in different universities around Egypt to introduce the bylaws and gather suggestions but what did those who criticise do?”
“We are done with the draft and it will now go through adoption procedures by the cabinet” Abdallah said. He added that they have worked hard since they were elected in April and this draft was built on the foundations laid by the ESU of 2011. “Difference of opinion is inevitable but this draft is just a starting point and can be changed by the next SU,” he said.
Mohamed Shawki, the secretary of Banha University student union and member of the drafting committee, said that he hated seeing union members from different universities fighting instead of uniting against the ministry who does not want to approve the law.
“If this draft was dominated by the brotherhood then it’s a plus for them, because it’s flawless” Shawki said.
Sameh Al-Mehi, assistant secretariat of Cairo university student union stormed into the room and was about to ask questions when he was stopped by the audience.
Mohamed Sobhy, a member of the drafting committee read the final statement that discussed the efforts of the committee and regretted being criticised by fellow students.
After the statement was read, Abdel Qudos thanked everyone for coming but the journalists demanded a question and answer session; Abdel Qudos said the room had to be evacuated for another conference.
It was only 1.20pm, the other conference was due to start at 2pm. The lights were turned off and the journalists continued their protest in the corridor, along with Al-Mehi, while members of ESU and MB tried to calm things down.