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Egypt: Students violently detained for supporting pro-Palestine movement

University students Ziad Bassiouni and Mazen Ahmed have been 'disappeared' for five days after expressing views advocating for a movement for Palestine on campus
Ziad Bassiouni, an Egyptian student, has been detained from his home due to his support for the international student movement for Palestine (Facebook)
Egyptian student Ziad Bassiouni was detained from his home due to his support for the international student movement for Palestine (Facebook)

Two Egyptian students have been "forcibly disappeared" after security forces arrested them last week over their support for a new student movement for Palestine, a rights group told Middle East Eye on Monday.

According to the Egyptian Network for Human Rights (ENHR), security forces publicly detained medical student Mazen Ahmed in Mansoura, a city in northern Egypt.

Ahmed, a 19-year-old student at Mansoura University, was taken to the headquarters of the national security apparatus in the city after his arrest, but has not been presented to any investigative authorities so far, ENHR said.

The group said Ahmed was detained because of his support and activism for Palestine and against the ongoing Israeli war on Gaza. He is due to take his end-of-year exams next week. 

"The ENHR calls on the Egyptian authorities to review their shameful stance regarding the continued detention of dozens of Egyptian citizens supporting the Palestinian cause, who are being held in pre-trial detention on various charges, and to release them immediately," the group said on Monday.

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A second student, Ziad Bassiouni, was also detained last week because of his pro-Palestine views, according to both his family and the ENHR.

Bassiouni's mother, the film critic Fayza Hendawi, said her son was violently detained on Thursday and has since disappeared.

"On Thursday at dawn, a large force from the national security apparatus, including masked men, violently stormed our apartment, broke down the doors, threatened us with guns, stole our phones, terrorised us, and vandalised every corner of the house for two full hours," Hendawi wrote on Facebook on Sunday.

Mazen Ahmed (ENHR)
Mazen Ahmed was detained in Mansoura because of his support and activism for Palestine (ENHR)

Hendawi said Bassiouni was detained after posting on social media calling on students to support Palestine and the boycott movement against Israel, "without opposing the regime or calling for violence".

"Nevertheless, he was treated as a criminal and arrested a week before his exams, and since then, we have heard nothing about him."

Hendawi said that the family had remained quiet since the detention, hoping he would be released, but that she had now decided to go public to raise concern about her son, who is being held incommunicado.

"I just need to know if my son is well," she wrote.

Students around the world have joined campus protests and encampments that started in the United States last month calling for justice for the Palestinians and divesting from businesses that have links to Israel's occupation of Palestine. 

Double standard

Egyptian authorities have detained dozens of people in recent months for acts of solidarity with Palestinians since the Israeli attack on Gaza that began in October 2023.

On 5 May, a statement signed by a new movement called "Egyptian Students for Palestine" was circulated on social media, calling on all students across the country to join.

The statement demanded that the education ministry boycott all products and companies that they say are "supportive of the crimes of Israeli occupation".

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A report by the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights earlier this month documented the detention of at least 120 pro-Palestine people, including two children.

The crackdown contradicts Egypt's public statements opposing Israel's war on Gaza, including the decision on Sunday to join South Africa's genocide case against Israel at the International Court of Justice

"It's a double standard," said Ahmed Attar, director of ENHR.

"While any popular movement sympathetic to Palestine is prohibited and thwarted, Egypt declares its intention to join South Africa's case," he added.

"The Israeli massacres have been ongoing for over seven months, and Egypt should have taken such a stance months ago, not just announcing its intention now (which could change)."

Attar added that the detention of the two students last week is consistent with "the Sisi government's long-standing policy of arrests, silencing dissent, and suppressing any political activism".

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