SHAFAQNA – Egyptian police backed by armored vehicles stormed the campuses of at least two prominent Egyptian universities to quell anti-government protests by students, officials and a student spokesman said Sunday. Sunday’s largest rallies took place at Cairo and the Islamist al-Azhar universities, where students smashed a number of newly installed metal detectors at campus gates.
Ahead of the academic year which began Saturday, authorities intensified security measures at universities nationwide to prevent the resurgence of student protests organized largely by supporters of toppled Islamist President Mohammed Morsi, overthrown last year by the military after massive protests against him.
Last year, at least 16 students were killed and hundreds were arrested during protests that regularly descended into violence.
This year, government officials warned that renewed protests would not be tolerated on campuses, enacting new regulations curbing student activities. Authorities hired a private security firm to search students, as well as install metal detectors and cameras around campuses.
New fortified walls were built and troops were permanently deployed outside campuses.
Student protest spokesman Youssef Salhen said protesters clashed briefly with police Sunday outside of al-Azhar University.
Salhen said students attacked the newly installed metal detectors, which he described as symbols of new “repressive measures” against the student protest movement.
He said tightening restrictions on student activities and protests will not put a dent into their rallies against the authorities.
“The student protest movement will not stop,” he said. “We want our voice to be heard that the students of Egypt don’t accept the coup and the military rule. … If we don’t protest, it means everything is OK.”
He said aside from the clashes on campus, authorities also arrested over 40 students, including organizers, from their homes ahead of Sunday’s scheduled protests.
A security official said at least six people were arrested at al-Azhar, where police fired tear gas. He said another seven students were detained in another university in Cairo.
The official said students used fire crackers and vandalized at least five metal detectors at the two campuses.
He spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak to journalists.
Morsi’s supporters continue to hold small, scattered protests despite a crackdown after his ouster in July 2013.