Country Profiles


Political and sectarian tensions led to sporadic attacks against schools, damage and looting of university buildings, and arbitrary arrest and injury of students 
on campus.675

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On 11 February 2011, President Hosni Mubarak was ousted following a popular uprising, and after one-and-a-half years of military rule, Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood was elected President. However, in July 2013, the military deposed him, leading to a violent crackdown on his supporters. Security forces killed more than 600 pro-Morsi protesters during the dispersal of two Cairo sit-ins on 14 August 2013.676 Sharp divisions, especially between Islamists and secular groups, continued to result in violent confrontations.677

Under Mubarak, there was a history of staff and students at universities being closely monitored by plainclothes state security on campus.678 In October 2010, an administrative court ordered security forces off university campuses.679

Egypt’s net primary enrolment was estimated at 96 per cent (2011),680 gross secondary enrolment was 72 per cent (2010)681 and gross tertiary enrolment was 29 per cent (2011).682 The adult literacy rate was 72 per cent (2010).683

Attacks on school students, teachers and education personnel

In February 2012, a court in the southern city of Assiut sentenced Makarem Diab, a Christian school teacher, to six years in prison on charges of defaming Islam.684 The case against Diab was brought by Islamist colleagues who accused him of mocking Islam’s prophet Mohammed.685 In September 2012, Nevine Gad, a Christian social studies teacher at a preparatory school in Manfalout, Assiut province, was arrested and charged with blasphemy after a student complained about a lesson on Islamic history she had given, with a section on the life of Mohammed.686

Military use of schools

In November 2012, the Lycee Al-Horreya ‘Bab El Louk’ sustained heavy damage when Central Security Forces, Egypt’s riot police, used the school to launch attacks on protesters in Cairo over four consecutive days. Molotov cocktails left parts of the school in flames and soldiers threw school furniture at protesters.687

Attacks on higher education

Attacks on higher education facilities

On 6 February 2011, in an attempt to quell protests, the Egyptian authorities closed all universities. The American University was damaged during protests in November 2011.688

During December 2011 clashes, in which the military opened fire and protesters threw Molotov cocktails, the Egyptian Institute, a research institution, was destroyed by fire and its invaluable collection of books and journals largely destroyed.689 The government accused protesters of throwing petrol bombs at the building.690

Attacks on higher education students, academics and personnel

Protests, clashes and arrests related to the wider political unrest frequently took place on university campuses. On 6 April 2009, eight people were injured and 15 were arrested in clashes between opposition and pro-government students during a protest in Ain Shams University in Cairo.691

In early September 2012, hundreds of Egyptians protested in Alexandria over the alleged torture by police of a student who was arrested while participating in a demonstration at Alexandria University.692

Attacks on education in 2013

Schools and universities were affected by the many political protests that turned violent in 2013. Pro- and anti-Morsi demonstrators clashed around Cairo University on 2 July.693 Witnesses reported gunmen shooting from the top of the Literature Faculty and other university roofs.694 Protests just outside the university campus were ongoing for two months, before being violently dispersed by security forces on 14 August.695 In September and October protests took place on several campuses. Twelve people were wounded at Ain Shams University.696

Twenty-three were injured in clashes at Zagazig University between students or between students and residents for and against the Muslim Brotherhood: 15 in an incident of fighting between students697 and eight in an incident of fighting between students and residents.698 On 20 October, 55 students were arrested after they tried to take their protest onto the streets from the campus of Cairo’s ancient Al-Azhar University.699

Unrest also affected schools in central Cairo. In January, the Al-Howeiyaty Secondary School for Girls was burned down and the Lycee Al-Horreya was set on fire in violent clashes between demonstrators and security forces.700

A number of Christian schools were attacked during a wave of sectarian violence that targeted Christian churches and property across the country – predominantly in Upper Egypt – immediately following the events of 14 August. For example, in Minya city, the Coptic boys’ school complex and the Saint Joseph’s girls’ school, among other Christian buildings, were attacked and set on fire on 14 August.701 The same day in Bani Suef, 125 kilometres south of Cairo, a mob looted and set fire to a Franciscan girls’ school.702

With the start of the new academic year, a number of student supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood led protests or called on fellow classmates to boycott schools, rallying against what they called a ‘military coup’. Several students were arrested, including seven high school students in Fayyoum during a student-led protest in September and another two high school students in Marsa Matrouh who were distributing flyers calling for students to boycott school in protest.703

One Christian school teacher, Demyana Abdelnour, was arrested in May 2013 for blasphemy and ordered to pay the equivalent of more than 25 years of her salary after being accused by students of expressing disgust when speaking about Islam.704


675 This profile covers attacks in the period 2009-2012, with an additional section on 2013.

676 “Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammed Badie held,” BBC News, 20 August 2013.

677 Fady Ashraf, “Hoda Elsadda: Biggest conflict facing Constituent Assembly is the violent rivalry in the streets, on TV and the sharp division of society,” Daily News Egypt; “EU’s Ashton concerned over continuing violence in Egypt,” Ahram Online, 9 October 2013; Mayy El Sheikh and Kareem Fahim, “Dozens are killed in street violence across Egypt,” New York Times, 6 October 2013; “Tear gas fired at Egyptian Islamist protesters,” BBC News, 29 November 2013; Jon Leyne, “Egypt Crisis Offers No Easy Way Out,” BBC News, 12 December 2012.

678 HRW, Reading between the ‘Red Lines’: The Repression of Academic Freedom in Egypt’s Universities (New York: HRW, 9 June 2005).

679 Ashraf Khaled, “EGYPT: Minister reinstated amid winds of change,” University World News, 27 February 2011.

680 UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS), “Education (all levels) Profile - Egypt,” UIS Statistics in Brief (2011).

681 The World Bank, “School enrollment – secondary (% gross),” The World Bank Data (2010).

682 UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS), “Education (all levels) Profile - Egypt,” UIS Statistics in Brief (2011).

683 The World Bank, “Literacy rate – Adult, total,” The World Bank Data (2010).

684 Security Abort Sectarian Strife in Aswan after a Common Conversion School,” Al Youm Al Saba, 29 February 2012.

685 Ibid.

686 Sherry El-Gergawi, “Saga of Coptic teacher ‘maliciously’ accused of insulting Islam ends,” Ahram Online, 5 October 2012.

687 Zeinab El Gundy, “Angry Lycee’s Students Protest against CSF’s use of School,” Ahram Online, 22 November 2012.

688 “Deadly new clashes in Egypt’s Tahrir Square” – Caption 27, The Atlantic, 21 November 2013.

689 Ursula Lindsey, “Egyptian Scholars Struggle to Protect Country’s History Amid New Violence,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, 15 January 2012; and “Cairo Institute Burned during Clashes,” The Guardian, 19 December 2011.

690 “The Scientific Institute on Fire,” Al Wafd, 18 December 2011.

691 “Protestors Arrested on Egypt ‘Day of Anger’,” Google News, 6 April 2009.

692 “Egyptians Charge Police Tortured Student,”, 4 September 2012.

693 HRW, “Egypt: Deadly Clashes at Cairo University,” 5 July 2013.

694 Ibid.

695 “Egypt troops move in to disperse pro-Morsi protests,” The Telegraph, 14 August 2013.

696 “Egyptian students clash as Mursi turmoil spreads to campuses,” Reuters, 29 September 2013.

697 Ibid.

698 Maggie Fick, “Anti-army protests staged at Egyptian universities,” Reuters, 8 October 2013.

699 “Riot police arrest students in Cairo clash,” Al Jazeera, 20 October 2013.

700 “In pictures: Fire destroys historic downtown school,” Egypt Independent, 27 January 2013.

701 HRW, “Egypt: Mass Attacks on Churches,” 22 August 2013.

702 Ibid.

703 “Students detained during school and university protests in Egypt,” Egypt Independent, 24 September 2013.

704 “Egypte: condamnée à payer 20 ans de salaire pour «mépris de l’islam,” RFI, 12 June 2013.