Egyptian universities have been under the spotlightdue to the escalating violence since the beginning of the school yearas a reaction to the military backed transition in power.
Egypt’s Student Union (ESU)President Mohamed Badran has been under fire for his statements and his political stances. He was able to win the elections against the candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood back in 2013 when former president Mohamed Morsi was still in power but after the ousting of Morsi,Badran and the Board of ESU have been heavily criticised by students belonging to different political factions. He gave Daily News Egypt this interview to clarify disputed matters.
DNE: How were the independents able to defeat the Muslim Brotherhood in the elections?
MB: “This was probably the first time that all civil powers, including the different revolutionary student movements, political parties and evennon-revolutionaries, united from 22 universities against the Muslim Brotherhood. This union was able to win in 15 universities over 7 universities for the Brotherhood.
In the second round of the elections where representatives were selected from Al-Azhar, high institutes and private universities, the Ministry of Education succeeded in supporting Brotherhood candidates, which resulted inthe balance of both civil and Islamist powers. But the union of civil powers agreed to support one candidate for the president’s position: MohamedBadran. Unfortunately we disagreed as the civil powers always do when it came to selecting the vice president and we were not able to coordinate the rest of the trustees’ positions.”
DNE: How was the conflict between the civil and Islamist camps inside the ESU during the year of former president Morsi?
MB: “There was practically no interaction with the Islamists during the time of Morsi, as we were nominated on25 April, elected in May then the exams started in June which was the same month of the revolution and then 3 July took place. The educational issues are underserved this year [due to the political events]. Generally the Brotherhood whether in ESU or in the ministry [of education], had an attitude with everyone as if they are different, we did not interact much but there were no major conflicts at the time of Morsi.
DNE: Tell us about the ESU board members who weredismissed.
MB: “The ESU abides by the University Organisations Regulations Law which regulates our jurisdictions. When we were elected the entire board made an oath to dedicate all our efforts to serve the students and disregard all our political affiliations, but the Brotherhood members broke this oath when they made statement in the name of the Union siding with the Anti-Coup Alliance and the Muslim Brotherhood.
They made several illegal actions that required their dismissal, including; making statements in the name of ESU without the consent of the Union, they talked with international organisations, they enticed violence, they did not abide by the legal procedures for calling for meeting, and they even demanded foreign intervention in Egypt. All this made us take the necessary legal procedures with them after having legal consultation.”
DNE: Is it true that there is a conflict between ESU and liberal student groups?
MB: “This is correct, but let me clarify that the conflict is between the so-called ‘revolutionary groups’ and ESU does not represent the 2.7 million university students of Egypt of different political ideologies. Any group of 15 people can call themselves a revolutionary group, and I find it incorrect to generalise a conflict between small groups of students and say that there is a conflict between Egypt’s university students and ESU.
These groups have their own way of dealing with political issues; they see that protests, strikes, boycotting exams and halting the educational process would solve problems. I believe this is wrong because any halt in the educational process would only harm the students who would need to repeat the school year, leading to repaying university fees and private lessons fees which will create an economic burden on the average Egyptian family. There are lots of students who can barely afford their tuition fees, along with a large number of students studying in governorates different from their own.
The entire country would suffer both economically and politically if the school year stops, meaning that the acts of protests and strikes would be harmful to the majority of the students and would only be a solution according to the point of view of a small group of students.The aforementioned concerns were all taken into consideration in my decisions, since I represent the entire segment of university students in Egypt.”
DNE: What do you think of the four demands of the students that were presented to the representatives of the ministries of interior and defence along with the presidency?
MB: “I agree with all the demands except for the demand of the resignation of the Ministers of Education and Interior as I do not find this conducive to solving the situation and this would not get retribution for those who died.
I consider all the moves to solve the situation as favourable efforts; several students are trying to do their best by meeting different political figures in order to fulfil the demands of the students.
Although I find a contradiction between the statements and actions of the students who met with the military representatives and called on them to release the students; meanwhile they say “down with military rule”, yet I consider all the trials as favourable efforts.
Personally, I have met with the Prosecutor General and he assured me that all the students would be able to take their exams, and that their parents would be able to visit them- which already happened. I also spoke with the Minister of Interior about treating the arrested students well, but there are other students who are being detained for the acts of violence and for murder, which I can’t do anything about.
I called on the President to make a presidential pardon for the students, but my demand was declined as he explained that a pardon could only be granted in cases that have already been sentenced not those who are still being investigated or tried.”
DNE: Several students were disappointed by your statements about Mohamed Reda and the student movement in a televised interview, could you elaborate on these statements?
MB: “Chairman of Cairo University DrGaber Gad Nassarheld the Ministry of Interior responsible for the death of Mohamed Reda right after he heard the news and before he did any investigation.
After his media statements, he formed a fact-finding committee and then found nothing. I find it wrong to make judgements about such hot topics without having factual evidence.
I met with the Minister of Interior and he showed me the birdshot used by the security forces and he claimed that the birdshots used to kill Mohamed Reda are different from the birdshots used by the security forces. Then I went to the Forensic Office and I was told that the student was shot at the bottom of his chest and the bottom of his back, and he confirmed that birdshots used are different from the ones used by CSF. The Prosecutor General repeated the investigations for four different times and they all came out with the same results.
I believe that it is only fair to consider the investigations of the prosecution for factual evidence when seeking retribution. In the case retribution was not achieved through court, the ESU would then resign.
Unfortunately our generation is suffering from confused standards, due to the amount of oppression that we suffered from during the past decades. Some students applauded the resignation of the Dean of the Faculty of Engineering at Cairo University and considered it an act of heroism, yetconsider those who hold on to their positions and fight against the pressure against them as sell-outs.
And when I said that the student movement was being directed by the Brotherhood, I did not mean that they are directly leading it. What I meant was that the Brotherhood are aware of the consequences of protesting and blocking the road especially with the Protest Law in effect, yet they intentionally do it in order to provoke a clash with the security forces in order to be able to use those who are hurt from the clashes to involve other students.
Unfortunately the revolutionary students fall for that and join the Brotherhood. The aforementioned proves my point that the students are being indirectly manipulated by the Brotherhood.”
DNE: What do you think of the Protest Law?
MB: “The Protest Law will not be applied inside universities. The Supreme Council of Universities made a decision only to regulate protests taking place on campuses. Any behaviour that opposes the bylaws of the university would be faced with the legal consequences.
As the head of ESU I have no say about the Protest Law, I can disagree with it as a citizen but not as ESU president as it would not be applied inside the university. As a citizen I hope it would be reviewed, but I am sure it would not be changed before an elected parliament is in effect.”
DNE: Why didn’t the ESAinterferein the case of the “coffee shop detainees” who all belong to the civil camp?
MB: “Firstly there is no such thing as a student who is a [political] detainee. This is a popular misconception but the only cases of [political] detention were when the Emergency Law was in action and in the cases of breaking the curfew. There must be an arrest warrant issued by the Prosecutor General before any arrest takes place.
No one can interfere — not even the president himself — in cases that are being investigated by the prosecution. ESU givesall the possible legal assistance for the arrested students: we make sure that there is a lawyer present, that the exams would be taken, and that the parents are allowed to visit.
It is not within my jurisdiction to release the students.”
DNE: Are the allegations that claim that the Youth Commission is linked to Future of a Nation Campaign true?
MB: “Of course this is a naive allegation. The Youth Commission was called for by The President’s Political Advisor Dr Mustafa Hegazyto empower youth from different political affiliations and has nothing to do with the campaign.
Future of a Nation Campaign is a separate campaign that is only linked to the ESU through myself but it has nothing to do with the ESU. I am simply working in two positions. The campaign receives donations on the campaign’s bank accountfrom a number of businessmen who agree with the idea and it had reached almost EGP 3m. The campaign supports the road map and the constitution. We have 15,000 registered members from all over Egypt.”