SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities. Learn more.

Date of Incident: November 28, 2013

Attack Types: Killings, Violence, Disappearances

Institution(s):Cairo University

Region & Country:Northern Africa | Egypt

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On November 28, 2013, Mohamed Reda, a 19-year-old engineering student, was killed as police violently dispersed a protest on the campus of Cairo University.  The students had gathered to protest an 11-year prison sentence imposed on 14 adult female students, and an unspecified term in juvenile detention for another seven minor female students, for their involvement in protests supportive of Mohammed Morsi.  Egyptian universities have seen increasingly widespread protests since July 2013, when President Morsi was overthrown and the current government came to power. 
Mohamed Reda reportedly sustained three gun shots before he died.  Eyewitnesses and university officials allege that Egyptian police had used birdshot and teargas to disperse protesters, while the ministry of interior has denied that police used lethal force, acknowledging only that teargas had been fired at protestors during the demonstration. Notably, the final autopsy report reportedly indicates that Reda was killed by the same type of birdshot used in an attack on protesters demonstrating against the military junta in November 2011.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the escalating violence on university campuses throughout Egypt, and calls on all sides to exercise restraint. Scholars at Risk is concerned about an apparent use of disproportionate force against students engaged in the non-violent exercise of protected human rights, including freedom of speech and association. While Scholars at Risk recognizes that state and university authorities have a legitimate interest in maintaining order and protecting property, they must do so in ways that are proportional to the situation and that respect peaceful expression and minimize the risk of physical injury. Use of excessive force in response to peaceful on-campus expression creates unnecessary risks of physical harm to individuals and undermines academic freedom and institutional autonomy.