The recent death of Italian Cambridge student Giulio Regeni stirred up international cries for the protection of academic freedom. Regeni, while doing research for the American University of Cairo and visiting a peer, was reported missing on January 25th and found dead days later. His work openly criticized the corruption found in Egypt’s government, which leads Italian press to believe Regeni was targeted and executed by police. With the rise of police brutality in Egypt, it is indeed likely that the press’ speculations are true– especially when considering that Regeni’s case is not an isolated once.
The death of a single student might be weak evidence to prove an attack on academic freedom, but Regeni’s sudden disappearance is part of a recent trend in Egypt so far. Since August of last year, 340 cases of “enforced disappearances” have been reported. Numerous letters written to Egyptian government officials reveal the repetitive harassment of researchers and scholars. Additionally, the death of the fatally shot poet Shaimaa al-Sabbagh sparked widespread criticism of intensifying police brutality.
When looking at the types of people being increasingly detained, it is plain that corrupt forces in Egypt find academic freedom threatening. Why else would these people, all fighting to speak their truth and voice their opinions, be targeted? And yet, while the voices of those who are fighting for academic freedom and upholding the idea of international perspective are few and being silenced, the police brutality and forces that silences them and represses academic freedom grows and intensifies. How can we– students, writers, and fighters for social justice– help make these voices louder?
The answer is simple: Speak. The American University of Cairo itself will not address the attacks on academic freedom, so we inevitably must illuminate them. While investigations into Regeni’s death crawl ever so slowly and answers have yet to be given, the mourning peers and professors of Regeni require the public to raise the issue and put pressure on investigators to take the case seriously.
Without the attention, Giulio Regeni’s death will remain unanswered to, and academic freedom will remain vulnerable. To ensure that neither he nor the importance of one’s right to an unlimited education is swept under the rug, we must be louder.