Egyptian security forces are carrying out widespread raids and repression in response to growing social and political discontent, which led to the first widespread stirrings of popular protest since the military regime led by Gen. Abdul-Fattah al-Sisi came to power nearly two years ago.
As educators and members of the academic community in the United States, we feel a particular responsibility to speak out against a regime that has targeted academics and students, in addition to many others, with the financial support and political cover of our own government. This January’s abduction, torture and murder of Giulio Regeni, an Italian graduate student at Cambridge University, provides a terrifying glimpse into the atmosphere ofrepression against all dissent that prevails under the US-backed al-Sisi regime.
In the lead up to demonstrations planned for April 25, there was a wave of arrests and raids targeting well-known progressive activists, including prominent labor lawyer Haitham Mohamedain. More than 150 people were seized in the latest crackdown, joining tens of thousands of others who languish in jails, along with hundreds who have been “disappeared” by the Egyptian authorities in recent years.
Meanwhile, attacks on civil society are intensifying. Staff members from Egyptian non-governmental organizations are facing 25-year jail sentences on trumped-up charges of receiving foreign funding to work against the government. In reality, this is the regime’s attempt to stifle those voices that bravely continue to speak out in Egypt against human rights abuses.
There is no doubt that the independent trade unions are next on the authorities’ list of targets. In early April, the Egyptian Ministry of Social Solidarity reportedly began an investigation into their funding.
Despite these appalling circumstances, the struggle of Egyptians to defend their rights is very much alive. Strikes have multiplied in recent weeks, with nurses and steelworkers among the latest groups to take action over wages and conditions.
The decision of al-Sisi to hand over control of the Red Sea islands of Tiran and Sanafir to Saudi Arabia, in defiance of the constitution he previously promoted, was the lightning rod for the April 25 demonstrations that brought crowds back into the streets of Cairo, chanting the one-word slogan “Arhal” (“Leave”), heard during the 2011 rebellion that toppled Hosni Mubarak.
Yet the United States government is continuing its political and military collaboration with the Egyptian regime. Gen. Joseph Votel, the head of US Central Command, traveled to Cairo to meet with al-Sisi in April. According to press reports, Votel confirmed that the US considers Egypt a “main partner” in the Middle East and praised the regime for confronting “terrorism” — even though “counterterrorism” is transparently the Egyptian government’s justification for suppressing all forms of dissent.
We refuse to be silent over abuses by the US-backed Egyptian state. We will campaign to oppose arms sales and security cooperation with a regime that commits grave violations of human rights. We will continue to mobilize to demand the release of Haitham Mohamedain and all other political prisoners, and demand justice for all of Egypt’s disappeared.
Amit R. Baishya, Assistant Professor, Department of English, University of Oklahoma
Megan Behrent, Assistant Professor of English, NYC College of Technology, City University of New York
Tithi Bhattacharya, Director of Global Studies, Associate Professor, History, Purdue University
Dana Blanchard, LeConte Elementary School, Berkeley Federation of Teachers, AFT 1078
Michele Bollinger, teacher, Washington Teachers Union, AFT Local 6
Phil Gasper, Emeritus Professor of Philosophy, Notre Dame de Namur University
Dana L. Cloud, Professor, Communication and Rhetorical Studies, Syracuse University
Thomas S. Davis, Associate Professor of English, The Ohio State University
Monique Dols, Early Childhood Educator United Federation of Teachers, Local 1
Charles Häberl, Chair and Associate Professor of the Department of African, Middle Eastern, and South Asian Languages and Literatures, Rutgers University
Jesse Hagopian, teacher, Garfield High School, editor, Rethinking Schools and More Than a Score
Pranav Jani, Associate Professor of English, The Ohio State University
Brian Jones, CUNY Graduate Center
William Keach, Professor of English, Brown University
Deepa Kumar, Associate Professor of Journalism and Media Studies, Rutgers, Vice President, AAUP-AFT
Treva B. Lindsey, Assistant Professor of Women’s Gender, and Sexuality Studies, The Ohio State University
Scott McLemee, columnist, Inside Higher Ed
Koritha Mitchell, Associate Professor of English, The Ohio State University
Bill V. Mullen, Professor of American Studies, Purdue University
Adam Miyashiro, Assistant Professor of Literature, Stockton University
David Palumbo-Liu, Louise Hewlett Nixon Professor, Stanford University
Leia Petty, teacher, United Federation of Teachers Local 1
Nicholas Rynearson, Lecturer in Classics, New York University
Helen C. Scott, Associate Professor of English, University of Vermont, United Academics
Nancy Welch, Professor of English, University of Vermont, United Academics
Chris Williams, Assistant Professor, Department of Chemistry and Physical Science, Pace University
Sherry Wolf, Senior Organizer, Rutgers AAUP-AFT
For more information on the latest repression in Egypt and the campaign in solidarity with its victims, visit EgyptSolidarityInitiative.org.