Clashes renewed at Al-Azhar University as a march by the Students Against the Coup (SAC) was intercepted by security forces outside the university campus on Monday, resulting in the arrest of at least 48 students.
The SAC movement, comprised of students decrying the military ouster of former president Mohamed Morsi, had organised the march to condemn earlier standoffs with security forces. Clashes soon evolved as security forces entered Al-Azhar University campus at the request of the university chairman.
Female SAC members led a protest to the Rabaa Al-Adaweya intersection in Nasr City following Monday’s clashes. Around 500 students blocked Youssef Abbas Street, disrupting traffic around the university, reported state-run Al-Ahram.
The Ministry of Interior said in a statement released on Monday that around 200 Al-Azhar students who belong to the Muslim Brotherhood blocked the road outside university campus and stalled traffic. The ministry accused the protesting students of attacking citizens and police forces with rocks and molotov cocktails, adding that the “students vandalised three police vehicles and injured several security personnel.”
Mahmoud Salah, member of the SAC media committee in Al-Azhar, claimed that the march was attacked by security forces before it advanced outside campus.
Hossam Al-Khooly, spokesman of the Voice of the Students movement in Al-Azhar University, said that the student protest blocked the road. He added security forces were quick to respond with “heavy” teargas fire. The Voice of the Students movement consists of students who are members of Al-Dostour Party, Misr Al-Qawia (Strong Egypt) Party, and the 6 April Youth Movement.
The Ministry of Interior said it succeeded in turning the students back to the university campus. The ministry claimed the students responded by “rioting and vandalising university institutions and the cars of university employees,” leading university Chairman Osama Al-Abd to file a complaint to the Cairo Security Directorate calling on security forces to intervene to “preserve lives and properties.”
Hany Abdel Latif, Ministry of Interior spokesman, said that security forces dealt with the “rioting” students with “extreme caution.” However Salah, on behalf of SAC, claimed that security forces dealt with the protest in a “brutal” and “unprecedented” manner.
Both Salah and Al-Khooly accused security forces of using teargas and birdshot inside university campus. Abdel Latif however denies that police forces are armed with birdshot.
Mahmoud Sebeiha, Al-Azhar University security official, said that the security forces entered university campus after protesting students fired birdshot, reported state-run news agency MENA.
Mohamed Fathallah, Ministry of Health spokesman, said five people were injured and taken to hospital as a result of Monday’s clashes. He denied that any deaths were reported at time of publishing.
This again contradicts reports from SAC that two students had been killed in the clashes. At the time of print, Daily News Egypt could not independently verify the deaths.
“The SAC organised Monday’s march to condemn an attack on Sunday of female students residing in the university dorms at the hands of the university’s administrative security personnel,” Al-Khooly said. Protesters had gathered outside the university dorms, blocking the road. In response, Al-Khooly said, security forces attacked them with teargas.
Abdel Latif said security forces only intervened on Sunday to prevent residents in the area from “wiping out” the student protesters. He accused the protesters of attacking security forces.
The Freedom and Justice Party condemned the “barbaric” way in which security forces handled the protests in Al-Azhar University in a statement released on Monday. The party accused the police and the “leaders of the coup” of waging “a war of eradication against Al-Azhar students” as a form of punishment for their activism against the “coup”.
Abdel Latif accused the International Organisation of the Muslim Brotherhood of “exploiting” student protests to “incite riots”.
Security forces were first allowed into Al-Azhar University after violence erupted on university campus on 30 October.
Shortly afterwards, Prime Minister Hazem El-Beblawi announced that police forces would be present at the gates of all public universities to help maintain security. El-Beblawi’s cabinet gave university presidents the right to request the entry of police forces into campus in case of “threats to individuals, property or students”.
Until 2009, the Ministry of Interior was responsible for providing Homeland Security personnel to secure universities. In 2009, the Administrative Court overruled this decision, establishing an “administrative” university security. This decision barring Homeland Security from University campuses did not go into effect until the 2011 revolution.