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 24, 2021

Attack Types: Travel Restrictions

Institution(s):University of Washington

Region & Country:Northern Africa | Egypt

New or Ongoing:New Incident

 On May 24, 2021, Egyptian authorities barred Walid Salem, a PhD candidate at the University of Washington and an Egyptian citizen, from traveling to the United States to resume his studies.

In May 2018, Egyptian authorities detained Salem in apparent connection with his academic research. He was later charged with spreading false news and joining a terrorist group (see report). Salem was released from jail in December 2018, and told reporters that he was granted a “complete release,” by prosecutors, though the case was not dropped entirely. Salem understood after communicating with state security officials that he was then permitted to travel internationally. In May 2020, Salem attempted to fly to the United States, but authorities seized his passport and did not return it. Salem acquired a new passport in October 2020.

In May 2021, Salem alerted Egypt’s State Security Officials of his plan to leave the country and travel to the United States. On May 24, Egyptian authorities flagged his passport while he attempted to board a flight back to the United States to resume his studies. Authorities told Salem that, on May 23, his name had been added to a list of persons banned from traveling out of the country.

Salem reportedly intends to appeal the travel ban.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the use of a travel restriction to restrict or retaliate against the nonviolent exercise of academic freedom — conduct which 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 signatory. State authorities have an obligation to refrain from interfering with and retaliating against the peaceful exercise of academic freedom, freedom of expression, and other protected rights so long as they are exercised peacefully and responsibly. In addition to the harm to the immediate victim, such incidents undermine academic freedom and democratic society generally.