Cross-posted from Nature Middle East’s House of Wisdom blog on behalf of Mohammed Yahia.
In an escalation of the row between Nile University and Zewail City of Science and Technology in Egypt over a disputed campus (see ‘Universities clash by the Nile‘), more than 50 students from Nile University today forced their way into the Zewail City campus to protest the “loss of their campus”.
The Nile University students have been holding peaceful protests daily at the gates of the disputed campus on the outskirts of Cairo. Today, however, they managed to force their way through the gates and overcome the security at the gate. Initial reports claimed the students broke the gate and attacked security and workers. However, these were later refuted by both sides.
“I am standing by the gates now and they are fine. I don’t see any damage at all. There were no injuries whatsoever, this is all exaggerations,” says Mohamed Abdel-Mottaleb, director of the Nanotechnology Research Center at Nile University, who went to the campus after hearing what happened. “The undergraduates and some research assistants decided yesterday – and I only knew this today after the events that happened in the morning – to force their way into the campus. Now they are standing protesting peaceful on the stairs in front of the university.”
In a press statement that the students released, they said they are “protesting for their right to use their campus to prepare for the new academic year which starts next month.”
The students are continuing their protest, holding up signs and chanting against Ahmed Zewail, a chemistry Nobel laureate and the founder of Zewail City. They say they are fed up with all the talks between officials to find a solution to the deadlock which have failed so far.
The students, who are planning an open-ended sit-in until their demands are met, tried to put up some tents “but these were peacefully removed by the City’s security,” says Rawya El-Daby, the manager of the communication department at Zewail City.
“We have tried to talk to them told them this is not the right way to find a solution but they are not listening. They said we are staying here and we are not leaving – these are our buildings,” says El-Daby.
El-Daby says that, while the protesting students are peaceful, they are being very provocative with their chants, accusing Zewail and the rest of the staff of being “thieves and liars.”
The boards of directors of Zewail City and Nile University have been working on a solution but to no avail, especially after discussions on merging Nile University and Zewail City broke down last year.