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: March 25, 2019

Attack Types: Imprisonment | Prosecution

Institution(s):Al-Azhar University

Region & Country:Northern Africa | Egypt

New or Ongoing:Ongoing Incident

On March 25, 2019, authorities reportedly arrested Al-Azhar University professor of Islamic law Sayed Hassan Abdallah Hassan, in apparent retaliation for publicizing over social media information about the alleged rape and death of a student on campus.

Reports surfaced on March 18 that a student was raped on the Al-Azhar campus. University officials have denied the incident and have taken measures to discourage discussion of the incident on social media. On March 24, authorities prevented students from leaving campus during a peaceful campus protest over the administration’s response to the incident (see report).

Around the same time, university administrators reportedly opened an investigation into Hassan for having allegedly posted content about the incident on his Facebook page. On March 25, state authorities reportedly arrested Hassan along with a self-described journalist, Aya Hamed, and took them to an undisclosed location.

On March 27, Egyptian authorities reportedly charged Hassan and Hamed with “publishing false news and joining a banned group” and ordered that they be held for 15 days pending an investigation.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the arrest and prosecution of a scholar in apparent retaliation for the peaceful exercise of the right to freedom of 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. State authorities have a responsibility to refrain from restricting or retaliating against such conduct, so long as it is carried out peacefully and responsibly. In addition to the harm to the immediate victim, arbitrary arrests and prosecutions undermine freedom of expression, academic freedom, and democratic society generally.