The Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE) expresses its deep pleasure for being chosen by the Middle East Studies Association in North America to receive the Academic Freedom award for the year 2014, for AFTE’s work on defending academic freedom, student rights, and university autonomy in Egypt.
This award emphasizes an important message in a time where academic freedom and student rights are facing a great regression in Egypt. This regression is represented by the increase in the number of police arrests and expulsions of students and faculty members, in addition to the upsurge in the number of strict and unfair judicial verdicts, and the continuous storming of university campuses by police forces, as well as the ongoing use of violence against the students.
MESA made the award on Sunday evening, November 23, 2014, at the awards ceremony held during its 48th annual meeting, in Washington, DC. MESA’s statement came as follows:
“MESA cited in particular the work of AFTE in defending the rights of university students and professors and in documenting abuses in the face of increasing intimidation, harassment and violence against members of the academic community who have criticized the laws, policies and practices of the Egyptian government since 30 June 2013.
AFTE activists seek to reinforce freedom of expression and related rights in Egypt so that they may be practiced in a context of tolerance and acceptance. Its Academic Freedom and Student’s Rights Program supports the academic freedom of both faculty members and students, including freedom of association, freedom of expression, freedom of peaceful assembly, the right to participate in managing their own affairs, and the right to fair and just disciplinary board hearings in the case of violations. It offers direct and indirect support to student initiatives aimed at securing the principles of a free student movement, as well as legal support to victims of violations in the academic community. Just as important, it has been key in monitoring and documenting developments inside Egyptian universities, not only in the field of freedom of expression, but also regarding such fundamental issues such as the universities’ autonomy, the economics of higher education, and the problems facing scientific research in Egypt. The deterioration of academic freedom at Egyptian universities has been particularly striking since 30 June 2013. “Since the removal of President Muhammad Mursi, CAF has issued 6 letters protesting a range of violations: the deaths of at least 16 students during protests on campuses, the firing of professors and the expulsion of hundreds of students accused, often with little or no evidence, of participating in violent protests, the targeting of high profile academics with no connection to the Brotherhood but who have openly opposed various government policies, and changes in laws concerning a range of issues related to university governance that reverse gains achieved in the immediate wake of the 2011 Revolution,” said CAF Chair Laurie Brand. “We view with extreme concern all of these manifestations of assaults on academic freedom and university life in post June 30 Egypt. It is our hope that in choosing ATFE to receive the CAF academic freedom award this year we not only make clear our strong support for the courageous work in which ATFE’s members are engaged, but also underline our on-going concern about the serious deterioration of conditions surrounding learning, teaching and academic inquiry in Egypt’s universities.”
This award comes at a time where the state is attacking civil society organizations, especially those working on defending human rights issues, and in a climate of intimidation, threats, and the deliberate distortion of such organizations and their employees. In this climate, the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression confirms the continuation of its work on defending student and faculty rights, and on defending freedom of thought and expression in general.