For the second time, Cairo University refrains from renewing the sabbatical of the researcher Kholoud Saber, and holds 4 months of her salary

The undersigned organizations strongly condemn Cairo University intransigence in renewing the 2018-2019 sabbatical of the assistant professor at Faculty of Arts at Cairo University, Kholoud Saber and ceasing the payment of her due salary since October 2017. The signatories demand from Cairo University the halt of such unlawful procedures, especially since they are induced by state security interventions in academic institutions and work.

Since her sabbatical for the second year of her Doctoral degree ends by the end of October 2017, Saber had presented her request for a renewal of her sabbatical by the end of August 2017. However, Saber did not get a final approval for her request. Subsequently, Saber inquired about the status of her request. She was then informed by Faculty employees that Faculty of Arts has approved her request for renewal, and that her papers are awaiting the endorsement of the University administration. Meanwhile, Saber informally received news that the approval of her request was pending authorization by state security services, which is based on a history of an illegal practice known as ‘security approval for traveling abroad. This practice, encompass that after universities send teaching staff’s papers to security institutions to be inspected, security services orders the approval or refusal ontraveling staff requests, according to which,universities issue their formal decision on travel requests from staff.

The Cairo University administration did not suffice with such intransigence. It went further by ceasing the payment of Saber’s Salary since last October. The later procedure supports the potentiality of the university’s direct intent to destabilize Saber’s legal status. Since she left her sabbatical application pending approval, the salary was to be ceased until a decision is made. On a different note, Saber faces various obstacles in completing her papers requested by the Belgium University she is currently studying at. On the 22nd of November 2017, Saber tried to inquire about the University’s stance from her request, and appealed to the university’s vice-president of graduate studies, informing him of the urgency of making a decision in regards to her request – to which she was notified that it was awaiting his endorsement and approval. However, her appeal was not met with a response.

Drawing attention to that in December 2015, Cairo University addressed Saber – by an e-mail – requesting her to terminate her sabbatical and reinstate her position in the University. This was based on a response to a notice from the Department of Inquiry and Information at the Ministry of Higher Education- which is the body that sends traveling university staff papers to the state security. Correspondingly, a number of organizations issued a statement requesting Cairo University to terminate the aforementioned decision. Furthermore, on the 4thof February 2016, Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE) went forward and appealed the later decision before the Egyptian administrative court, under lawsuit number 3163/ Judicial year 63. Consequently, Cairo University retracted its decision and allowed Saber to resume her sabbatical period and her doctoral research. However, Saber insisted on moving ahead with the lawsuit in order to instate her legal right to continue with her scholarship for a doctoral research.

On the 19thof December 2017, AFTE’s attorney amended the appeal’s petition based on the recent intransigence of the university in renewing Saber’s sabbatical for year 2017-2018. On the 20thof February, the competent education circuit – at the administrative court – ordered an adjournment of the hearing and the immediate suspension of the University’s ‘passive decision’: abstaining from the renewal of assistant professor Kholoud Saber sabbatical, in order to complete her doctoral research in Belgium, and annulment of all that follows such decision: most importantly the payment of her suspended due salary since October 2017.

The undersigned organizations affirm that, Cairo University’s intransigence to decide the renewal of Saber’s sabbatical for her third doctoral year is a violation of law number 49/1972 regulating universities, which stands for staff members academic freedoms and their for sabbatical periods for research purposes; pursuant to article (146) of the law stating: “Teaching assistants and assistant lecturers may be sent on missions abroad, receive foreign scholarships, or be allowed sabbaticals, paid or unpaid, pursuant to the decision of the university president, based on the suggestion of the faculty or institute board after soliciting the opinion of the department board, and pursuant to the approval of the university board of graduate studies and research…”. Saber fulfilled all procedural requirements in the law prior to leaving for Belgium and had her sabbatical renewal approved by the faculty of Arts. However, the vice president for graduate studies still did not endorse it.”
The following signatories see that delaying the endorsement of Sabers request destabilizes her legal status. Doctoral research scholarships are given for a duration of 4 years and Saber only had 2 of those years. Accordingly, the University should not refrain from endorsing the renewal of her sabbatical, especially since their refusal constitutes a waste of, both, her academic effort during the past 2 years and the resources allocated to her by the university for the purposes of her doctoral research.

Furthermore, the undersigned organizations assert on the importance of respecting the Egyptian constitution which emphasizes on protection of academic freedoms pursuant to article 22 of the constitution that states: “Teachers, faculty members, and their aides are the basic pillar of education. The state shall guarantee the development of their scientific capacities and professional skills and protect their material and moral rights…”and Article 23 stating: “The state shall guarantee the freedom of scientific research and encourage its institutions…”. Correspondingly, Cairo University’sintransigencein endorsing the renewal of Sabers sabbatical and the cease of payment of her due salary stand in contradiction to articles of the Egyptian constitution, as well as universal principals protecting scholar’s freedom of research, learning, and development of their academic skills whether in their country or abroad.
The following signatories demand from Cairo University to decide the immediate renewal of Sabers Sabbatical, and pay her due salary since October 2017, asserting that the legal case will still be ongoing against Cairo University to guaranty Saber’s rights. Finally, the signatories call on to members of the academic community in universities and institutions interested in academic work to address Cairo University and demand the stop of such intransigent procedures against assistant professor Kholoud Saber.

The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information
The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights
The Egyptian Center for Social and Economic Rights
Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression
Al Nadeem Center for Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence and torture