More than 350 Scholars Worldwide Demand the Release of Ahmed Samir in Defense of Academic Freedom
Ahmed Samir Santawy was detained under false charges one month ago, on February 1, 2021.
We, the undersigned academics and scholars, condemn the detention of Central European University Master’s student Ahmed Samir Santawy by Egyptian authorities. We call on the Egyptian government to release him, as well as researchers similarly detained under false charges.
On February 1, 2021, Ahmed was forcibly disappeared while visiting family in Egypt for the academic break period. On February 6, the Supreme State Security Prosecution ordered his detention for 15 days pending police investigations. According to his lawyer, the State Security Prosecutor formally charged Ahmed with “joining a terrorist group with prior knowledge of its objectives, broadcasting false news aimed at disrupting security and public order, and using an account on Facebook for the purpose of spreading false news.” These baseless claims constitute a flimsy excuse for the intentional silencing of a student and researcher.
Ahmed’s detention is the latest case in a series of imprisonments of falsely-accused international students and researchers. The actions against Ahmed coincide with the one-year anniversary of University of Bologna postgraduate student Patrick George Zaki’s illegal imprisonment, and echo the cases of PhD students Walid al-Shobaky and Giulio Regeni.
The targeting of scholars and students by the Egyptian security apparatus is part of a larger agenda to silence open discussion and intellectual production. Ahmed’s academic work deals with the history of family planning in Egypt, and advocates safe and legal access to healthcare procedures for women. His work is an example of the critical importance of scholarship for the present that we all inhabit. We refuse to stand for the Egyptian state’s attack on academic freedom, in Ahmed’s case in particular, and the cases of all persecuted scholars, in general.