12:01am

Tue March 29, 2011
Africa

Egypt's College Campuses Rocked With Unrest

Cairo's Tahrir Square, where millions protested and brought down Egypt's former regime, has returned to normal. But across the capital, college campuses have been rocked by continuing unrest.

The military police dispersed the largest gathering with force last week, leaving more than a dozen hospitalized. Within a day of the military police crackdown at Cairo University, students had resumed their protest.

They aim to oust university leaders appointed by the regime of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, says Mahmoud Samih, a business major and a part of the protest group.

"We had a protest yesterday in front of the main building that has the office of the dean, and they wanted him out," he says.

Samih makes his reasons clear: He says the dean is a spy for the system.

Other students listening in laugh at this bold statement. Branding a university dean a spy would have been unthinkable before the January revolution.

But students have a legitimate complaint, says Dina Shehata, a senior researcher at the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies. By law, top university officials were all appointed by Mubarak.

"Most of the deans and most of the big faculties at Cairo University are very close to the ruling party or part of the ruling party," Shehata says. "Well, it was one of the strategies used to control student mobilization."

A System Still In Place

The National Democratic Party, the ruling party of Egypt, collapsed from the top when the leadership resigned during the protests that toppled the president. But much of the system is still in place.

Dental student Ahmed Leylani has been protesting at Ain Shams, Egypt's second largest state university, to force the university's president step down.

"He is one of the main corrupted corners in Egypt," says Leylani, who wants the president out because of past treatment of politically active students.

"He used to prevent them from entering exams — and not to go to the university — because they are part of political movement or something, so, yes, he is a part of the security system," Leylani says.

Students are just one group that's in a hurry for change, says Nabil Fahmy, a former ambassador and the dean of the school of public affairs at the American University in Cairo.

"Understandable — I'm not sure it's reasonable, though," Fahmy says. "Anybody from 35 to 60 has been working within the Mubarak regime for a while, in the larger sense. It doesn't mean they are all good, or they are all bad. Their complaint is legitimate, but it's not reasonable because you can't throw everybody out."

Keeping Up The Pressure

When military police broke up the demonstration at Cairo University, they used Tasers and cattle prods, according to Egyptian human rights groups that documented the hospital cases. The military council has acknowledged the reports and promised to investigate, including charges that the military conducted humiliating virginity tests on women arrested in earlier demonstrations.

The promise of an investigation was seen as a concession. Students seem determined to keep up the pressure and have won some victories. Protesters expelled from a private university were reinstated this week and allowed to organize the school's first student union. These are small steps, Shehata says.

"I think many are frustrated because they feel there was this big revolution, many people have died, many people were wounded, and it hasn't led to any real change of any sort," she says.

Protests outside the universities are picking up momentum. There is a call from bloggers and activists for one million Egyptians to go Friday to Tahrir Square — where the protest movement began. It comes at a time when Egypt's military council is sending another message: Egyptians should get off the streets and start building the country and preparing for parliamentary elections in six months' time. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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