Egypt's students must find strength through unity
As the fourth anniversary dawns of the revolt against Hosni Mubarak, the battle for Egyptian campuses is at a critical juncture.
Universities in Egypt have always been a battleground for political issues, with Islamists on the one side and leftists on the other.
With the regressive turn of events in the country, both the rebelliousness of Muslim Brotherhood and the frustration and anger of radical students have taken the struggle against the against authorities to new heights, and with that came a price way beyond anything suffered before.
Dead, imprisoned or expelled
According to reports, 209 students have been killed by police since the military coup of July 2013, almost all of them last year. This semester, 317 students have been arrested by the police, and many face long sentences in prison or even death for their alleged crimes.
Hundreds of students have been expelled since the coup, including 122 students for Al-Azhar University this semester alone. Ahmed Abuzeid is one example. The president of the BUE student council until his expulsion at the beginning of this semester, Abuzeid was a leader of the student movement in his university, and has lead many battles for student rights. Now he's permanently expelled.
Amid all this, the student movement is facing even graver challenges as the state tightens it grip. Several universities have hired the services of private security firm "Falcon" to oppose anti-government protests, and search students entering their colleges, which in return has led to several protests.
Worse than that, earlier in 2014, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi gave himself the power to appoint university heads and department heads - a move that is arguably unconstitutional. This strengthens state control over university administrations and ensures their loyalty in the battle to break what's left the student movement.
This presidential decree came accompanied with other laws threatening academics with expulsion or detention for discussing politics on campus, or supporting protesters.
Students against rationality
For the second year in a row, the Islamist "Students Against Coup" movement has stuck to a strategy of continuous demonstrations, rioting, and insulting those refusing to join their cause. Security forces have been using this to further the crackdown against all kinds of opposition to the state.
Members of other revolutionary groups can't decide how to deal with the Islamist students and their protests. There are two options:
1. If the agenda of the revolutionary groups includes the full mobilisation of students against the regime, then coordination with Students Against Coup is inescapable. But such coordination must include them giving up calls for the return of Morsi, Raba'a signs, and the reactionary language.
2. Seek no cooperation. Previous attempts at have ended with the Students Against Coup group attempting to take over the joint protests and quickly reverting to their usual rhetoric.
This, in my opinion, puts into question the idea of continuous protests itself.
|According to reports, 209 students have been killed by police since the military coup of July 2013, almost all of them last year.|
Demonstration is still the favourite choice for student movements to show their anger, but we have seen how more protests have only come to mean more deaths and more prison time. This has driven away many of the non-politicised students, despite isolated occasions of mass protest, as with the case of rebelling against the Falcons, or the outrage against a recent clearning of Hosni Mubarak of any involvement in the deaths of protesters in 2011.
The counter-revolution of the establishment has won, and calling for more mass protests is nothing short of irresponsible. Mass protests, including the ones in 2011, are the result of decades of organised agitation and grassroot struggles at every location of mass gathering, including universities. They definitely are not what causes the revolution, but just one of its tools.
The students of revolutionary groups must go back to basics, building the movement through mature tactics and calculated advances. Shouting anger from their lungs without considering the consequences is a waste effort and spirit, and puts them at risk of losses, isolation, and easily falling into depression.
Hopes to end repression must be combined with great strategic effort.