The recently banned Muslim Brotherhood organized a series of anti-military protests at state university campuses across the country this week, in the aftermath of the harsh repression of Brotherhood marches on October 6 that left 53 demonstrators dead.
The protesting students were either subjected to a security crackdown, like at Cairo University, or clashed with students that supported the military, such as at Zagazig University.
On Monday, dozens of Brotherhood students were arrested as they protested in front of Cairo University’s main gate in Nahda Square. Nahda had been a major site of Brotherhood resistance after Islamist President Mohamed Morsi was deposed by the Armed Forces last July. A sit-in of Morsi supporters held there was brutally dispersed on August 14, leaving dozens dead.
Clashes broke out between Brotherhood demonstrators and students who opposed them, before progressing into violent clashes between the protesters and security forces. Dozens were arrested, most of whom were enrolled in the Faculty of Engineering.
Security forces then closed the main roads surrounding Nahda to traffic, prompting some students to continue protesting inside the campus.
The human rights-oriented website hoqook.com reported that several engineering students declared a strike demanding the release of the arrested demonstrators. Some students at Aswan University’s Faculty of Engineering also went on strike to support the students, reported the independent newspaper Youm7.
In Zagazig, students who opposed the current military-backed interim government clashed with students who supported the military. Both sides threw rocks and Molotov cocktails at each other, and the state-owned Al-Ahram newspaper also reported that there was an exchange of gunfire.
Twelve students were reportedly injured in the incident.
Similar protests also took place in Mansoura and Alexandria Universities, leading to more scuffles between Brotherhood students and the rest of the student body.
But the atmosphere appeared to calm down by the end of the week, reported the privately owned newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm on Thursday.
Dozens of students demonstrated in front of Cairo University’s Faculty of Veterinary Sciences, avoiding the contentious Nahda Square.
The university’s student union also issued a call to suspend all classes until three students who had been arrested in clashes with police forces were released.
A student movement affiliated with the liberal Dostour Party joined with other secular-oriented student movements to call for a protest at the High Court on Saturday, demanding the release of all detained students, despite the deep political rift between their party and the Brotherhood.
“We demand the release of all detained students, and to protect their right of free speech and protest, because this is a humanistic call regardless of any political rifts or differences,” the official page of the Dostour Party students group said.
“Long live the students’ quest for a free country, where everyone enjoys a dignity that is not violated, and rights that are not sacrificed,” the statement added.