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Inside Story

Egypt: A campus revolution?

As Egyptian students demand that their voices be heard, we ask at what cost their calls for change could be achieved.

Last updated: 14 Dec 2013 12:12
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The removal of Egypt's first democratically elected president has opened one of the bloodiest chapters in the country's modern history.

July's coup that ousted Mohamed Morsi triggered scenes of protests that have become a part of daily life for many Egyptians and many of those on the streets across the country are students.

They are telling Al Jazeera their universities are in the middle of an uprising. Whether politically aligned, or not, they have their demands and say they will not stop until they get what they want.

No one can deny the rights of students for protesting, they have all the right - no one denies that but when you go violent you have to be stopped. Other people going to universities are going for education - you have to respect that - if you want to protest, why don't you do it after hours, after lectures.

Dina Tosson, an anti-Morsi protester

And while some groups started off with somewhat different demands, there are some that they all agree on:

'Students against the coup' are angry about the ousting of former President Morsi.

The treatment of female protesters has also triggered outrage. They say they have been assaulted by police and had their hijabs pulled off.

Students are demanding the release of their colleagues from different universities, who have been arrested in the last several months.

They are also calling on the country's education minister to quit his job.

Al Jazeera knows of at least two students killed in protests, and demonstrators are calling for an investigation into the deaths.

In recent days there has been fighting between students - including a growing number of women - and security forces firing tear gas and birdshot to stop them from marching.

Al-Azhar University has been criticised for calling in the security forces, but it says it had no choice. Back in October, a group of students broke into the administrative headquarters of the institution, and damaged the building.

The authorities dealt swiftly, some say harshly, with those taking part. Twelve students were convicted of charges including attacking university personnel there and sabotaging public and private property.

They were sent to jail for 17 years, which their colleagues say it is hugely disproportionate, and it is one more reason they are determined to keep on protesting.

Why is returning to the lectures not an option for many students? What are their demands? And what is the price of protest? 

On Inside Story, Stephen Cole discusses with Dina Tosson, a June 30 protester that demanded the end of Morsi's presidency; Fawaz Gerges, a professor of Middle East politics and director of the Middle East Centre at the LSE; and Nouran Mostafa Ashoush, who is an economy student and member of the 'Students Against the Coup' movement.

"The university in Egypt has always been a spearhead of dissent .... This tells you a great deal about how pivotal the Egyptian university is and I am not surprised that the Muslim Brotherhood has shifted its strategy from the streets, from the squares into the universities. What the Muslim Brotherhood is trying to do is to mobilise students to keep its protests alive and also to make inroads into the non-Muslim Brotherhood students in order to challenge the dominant order in Eypt."

Fawaz Gerges, a professor of Middle East politics and director of the Middle East Centre at the LSE

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Al Jazeera
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