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: August 23, 2018

Attack Types: Imprisonment

Institution(s):Helwan University

Region & Country:Northern Africa | Egypt

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On August 23, 2018, Egyptian authorities arrested Yahya Kazaz, an Egyptian professor from Helwan University in Cairo, in apparent retaliation for expression critical of the government of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

Prior to his arrest, Kazaz, a professor of Geology, reportedly posted a message on Facebook calling for “resistance” to the government of President al-Sisi. Egyptian officials reportedly arrested Kazaz while he was attending a funeral in the Red Sea Governorate and initially held him for a 15-day pretrial detention period. He was later charged alongside two other opposition figures for “aiding a terrorist organization to achieve its goals.” Authorities also reportedly froze the funds in Kazaz’s bank accounts.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the arrest and imprisonment of an academic in apparent retaliation for nonviolent political expression — conduct that is expressly protected under international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Egypt is a party. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, such actions undermine academic freedom and democratic society generally.


On May 20, 2019, the Egyptian prosecutor general’s office reportedly ordered the release of Professor Kazaz, along with other detainees who had been charged with similar security-related offenses. As of this update, it is not clear whether any charges against Professor Kazaz remain pending.