On July 1, 2015, Fanny Ohier, a French researcher and master’s student in the department of political sociology at the School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences in Paris, was reportedly arrested in and subsequently deported from Egypt, where she had been conducting research on the April 6 youth movement, an outlawed activist group.
According to the student, on July 1, Ms. Ohier had been in Egypt for a month and a half, studying Arabic and conducting research on the April 6 movement. She was in a hotel in the city of Damietta, planning to meet with movement members, when security officers entered her room and took her into custody. The officers reportedly confiscated and inspected her computer, luggage and cell phone, and took her to the Damietta police station, where she was held for roughly four hours, during which she was not permitted to contact the French Embassy. Security officers then allegedly transported her to Cairo — first to a government building where her visa was cancelled, and then to Cairo airport. On July 3, she was deported. Although Egyptian officials did not provide Ms. Ohier with an official reason for her arrest and deportation, she has asserted that she believes it was related to her research on the April 6 movement, and stated that, during her arrest, she overheard police state that she had “improper friends.” In April 2014, Egyptian authorities banned the April 6 group, which had actively opposed former President Hosni Mubarak’s rule, on grounds of espionage and harming the state’s image.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the arrest and deportation of a student, apparently in response to scholarly research. In the absence of clear evidence to the contrary, the arrest and deportation suggest an intent to obstruct that research or otherwise retaliate against the student for the content of her academic work and nonviolent exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and association, conduct which is protected under international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. State authorities have a responsibility to protect academic freedom, freedom of expression and association, and to refrain from imposing arbitrary restrictions on movement or improper arrest intended to limit these freedoms; such actions undermine academic freedom and democratic society generally.