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: December 28, 2014

Attack Types: Loss of Position

Institution(s):Al-Azhar University

Region & Country:Northern Africa | Egypt

New or Ongoing:New Incident

In orders issued on December 17 and 28, 2014, Al-Azhar University reportedly expelled 122 students, alleging they had engaged in riots, illegal protests and violence.  As of this report, specific factual allegations against the expelled students were unavailable. 
The expulsions occurred against the backdrop of increasing efforts throughout Egypt to curb political dissent on campus, with universities instituting policies designed to prevent student protests.  Al-Azhar University, for example, now reportedly requires students residing in its residence halls to sign an agreement not to engage in protest or other political activities, or else risk expulsion.  In addition, in October 2014, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi issued a decree allowing the expulsion of staff and students, including in cases involving “acts obstructing the educational process.”
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the suspension or expulsion of students in apparent retaliation for the peaceful exercise of the right of free expression and association – conduct which is expressly protected under international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  State and university authorities have a responsibility not to interfere with such rights, so long as that activity is undertaken peacefully and responsibly.  At the same time, academic freedom and free expression do not extend to violence or the destruction of property, and on-campus expression must be undertaken in a manner that is consistent with university values including social responsibility. While 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, respecting the rights to peaceful expression, association and due process.