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: May 14, 2020

Attack Types: Imprisonment

Institution(s):College of Staten Island CUNY

Region & Country:Northern Africa | Egypt

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On May 14, 2020, Egyptian authorities reportedly arrested College of Staten Island (CSI) CUNY student Mustafa Ali Hassanien in apparent retaliation for his criticism of the Egyptian government.

Hassanien is a filmmaker and Cinema Studies student at CSI and has publicly criticized President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi’s government.

On May 14, when Hassanien arrived at Cairo International Airport to visit his family, authorities arrested him for “disturbing public security,” “spreading false news,” and “belonging to a terrorist organization.” Hassanien was reportedly transferred to different detention facilities numerous times before being taken to Tora Prison, which is notorious for human rights violations.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the apparently arbitrary arrest of a graduate student, apparently in connection with the nonviolent exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of association — conduct that is expressly protected by 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 an obligation to refrain from restricting or otherwise interfering in the nonviolent exercise of such rights. In addition to the harm to the immediate victim, arrests intended to restrict or retaliate against expressive activity undermine academic freedom and democratic society generally.