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: January 03, 2016

Attack Types: Imprisonment | Travel Restrictions

Institution(s):Bibliotheca Alexandrina | University of Manouba

Region & Country:Northern Africa | Egypt

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On January 3, 2016, Dr. Amel Grami, a professor in the Faculty of Arts and Humanities at the University of Manouba in Tunisia, was taken into custody at Cairo International Airport while en route to Alexandria, where she was scheduled to give a presentation.  After being detained for more than 14 hours, she returned to Tunisia.

In recent years, Dr. Grami has written extensively in Egyptian publications and elsewhere about topics including the Arab Spring, political Islam, and terrorism.  She was traveling to Egypt after receiving an invitation from the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, a library and cultural institution in Alexandria, to attend a conference titled “Nurturing Extremism: A Reading of the Measures of Intellectual Confrontation.”  Dr. Grami was scheduled to present on research methods in the study of terrorism and extremism. Following her arrival in Cairo, however, Dr. Grami reported that Egyptian authorities followed her around the airport, temporarily confiscated her passport, and took her into custody, during which she was interrogated at length.  She further stated that, while in custody, authorities informed her that she was being held because she was a threat to national security, but that she was given no further clarification about the reasons for her detention.  Sources indicate that the Bibliotecha Alexandrina offered to engage the ministry of the interior to intervene in her case, but after more than 14 hours in detention, with no clear way of entering the country, Dr. Grami elected to leave Egypt and return to Tunisia.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the denial of entry and detention of a scholar, apparently to retaliate against or prevent nonviolent scholarly activity.  In the absence of clear evidence to the contrary, such actions suggest an intent to obstruct the nonviolent exercise of the rights to academic freedom, freedom of expression and freedom of 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 detention intended to limit these freedoms.  Such actions undermine academic freedom and democratic society generally.


Authorities detain Tunisian intellectual at Cairo Airport