This afternoon, AUC students—not generally a very politically-active lot—and a number of faculty came out in support of one of their own. Philip Rizk, a German-Egyptian graduate student in the Middle East Studies program, was abducted by state security forces Friday night while returning home from a march in Qalubiyya, an event described in all its harrowing detail by journalist Sarah Carr here. Members of the Egyptian intelligence services have since asked after Carr, along with some members of the AUC community.
This afternoon, however, over 50 members of the AUC community came together to urge the AUC Board of Trustees, who are on campus this week to celebrate its inauguration, to take advantage of their “good offices” and contacts to press the Egyptian government for Philip’s release.
The demonstration started in HUSS plaza (HUSS being short for Humanities and Social Sciences) with a series of speakers—friends, colleagues and instructors of Philip. His parents were even there to express their own outrage and concern for Philip’s well-being. The group then started marching across AUC’s newly expansive campus to Alfi Hall, where the Board of Trustees was presently having lunch, passing by Jared’s Bagels, Cinnabon and one of three Cilantro locations on campus. They also took a detour through the corporate food court which houses, among others, one of the campus’s two McDonald’s locations, creating a bit of a ruckus, with chants of “Free Philip Now!” echoing through a space that generally only witnesses the nattering of Egypt’s youthful elite.
Upon reaching Alfi Hall, the demonstration quieted somewhat while an eminently polite invitation was offered over the bullhorn for someone from the board to emerge from among their handlers to address the crowd. Being met with only a silent phalanx of white-paper-capped caterers, the demonstration moved to the side of the building, where the members of the board might have a better chance of seeing and hearing the invitation more clearly. Chanting resumed, with the entreaty, “We can free him, you can help!”, interspersed with the occassional polite invitation.
After about 25 minutes of chanting, AUC President David Arnold (technically a member of the board) eventually arrived to assure the crowd that AUC was doing everything in its power to secure Philip’s release in “low-key” ways. This was clearly a reference to AUC’s sensitivity to its position as the premier engine of Egyptian upper-class intellectual, economic and political regeneration. Egypt’s first-lady, Suzanne Mubarak, had in fact just attended the instution’s inauguration the day previous. The event showcased such ultra-paranoid security that no students were invited (!!!) and no cell phones were allowed—a fact that in fact hindered the effort to free Philip, as the German embassador, who was also attending the event, was left incommunicado for much of the day and unable to coordinate the effort on the diplomatic front.
David Arnold, and the fellow he brought along with him who is supposed to be working on this issue (I forgot his last name and title, but his first was Amr), were unable to tell the crowd where Philip was being held, a rather stressing matter considering that his location is likely to have some bearing on his treatment, with some facilities being nearly synonymous with torture. Philip’s parents were subsequently informed that their son was being held in the Nasr City State Security Complex, the place, I’ve been told, where political detainees are taken for interrogation, although this has not been confirmed.
The demonstration broke up at this point, and the plan was re-affirmed: to continue the protest every Monday and Wednesday at 10am until Philip is freed. Keep informed of the latest developments here, and if you’ve succumbed to the Facebook octopus, you can join the group to help secure his release here. There is also an online petition here.