Despite the ongoing COVID-19 restrictions, the Supera Consortium remains concerned about the conditions of Patrick George Zaky, a 27-year-old Egyptian postgratuate student enrolled in the “GEMMA” Erasmus Mundus Master’s degree in Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of Bologna, Italy, who is held in custody in Egypt.
On February 7 2020 Patrick Zaki was arrested by the Egyptian authorities, apparently in connection with his activism and research in the area of human rights and gender issues. The international network Scholars at Risk has reported that after five months of studies in Italy, Zaki returned to Egypt for a family visit. Upon his arrival at Cairo Airport Zaki was reportedly detained, interrogated by members of the Egyptian National Security Agency (NSA) and then taken to an undisclosed location, where he was allegedly subjected to torture, including beatings and electric shocks.
According to the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, a human rights organization based in Cairo, Egyptian authorities are investigating a number of allegations against Zaki, but have not publicly disclosed the grounds warranting Zaki’s arrest. Zaki has been denied family visits, and has only had limited contact with legal counsel.
As of today, Zaki has been moved several times, and court hearings have been repeatedly put back due to the Coronavirus crisis.
The University of Bologna has issued a motion, calling for “Patrick Zaky’s safe and rapid return to Bologna, so that he can resume his studies. Until then, it is our duty to make sure that the Italian Government and the European Union continue to do their utmost to ensure Patrick’s return to our community.”
Responding to this motion, several international university networks have expressed their solidarity to Patrick Zaky.
SUPERA Project stands in solidarity with Ayse Gül Altinay, Professor of Anthropology and Director of Sabancı University Gender and Women’s Studies Center of Excellence (SU Gender) and editorial board member of the European Journal of Women’s Studies.
The past May, Professor Ayse Gül Altinay, partner in our sister project Gearing Roles, was sentenced to 2 years and 1 month in prison for “willingly and knowingly supporting a terrorist organisation as a non-member“.
A growing number of scholars in Turkey face criminal charges and have been prosecuted in retaliation for having signed a petition in January 2016 (the so-called “Peace Petition”, organized by the group known as “Academics for Peace”): such actions run against freedom of speech and academic freedom.