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Egypt: Teenager Confronts Militarization of Schools

Categories: Middle East & North Africa, Egypt, Citizen Media, Digital Activism, Education, Human Rights, Youth

This post is part of our special coverage Egypt Revolution 2011 [1].

Since the toppling of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak and the military commanding the transition period, the military institution has come under mounting criticism. Various revolutionary groups aimed their condemnation at the military abuses and violations. One of these groups is No Military Trials [2]group that has focused its work on advocating against military tribunals for civilians.

A campaign called Military Liars [3] used citizen media to highlight the use of violence by the military against peaceful protesters. Others focused on the military's control over civilian affairs [4]in general. Also, there has been increasing critique of the military conscription system.

No to Military Services Movement [5] was founded in 2009 and more recently members of the campaign declared their refusal [6] to turn themselves for military service due to their pacifist beliefs.

Ahmed Hassan a blogger [7]and a young member of the group has taken a step further against the military institution by refusing the militarization of schools. In Egypt, some high schools and all public universities require students to attend classes in the subject of military education. The movement considered what Ahmed did an important step as a peaceful move to expose the Egyptian military's violation of international human rights standards through subjecting children to military training.

In this video [ar], uploaded on YouTube, Ahmed explains his work (click cc for English subtitles):

Ahmed started a campaign at his school titled “No to Militarization of Schools” urging students to boycott the subject of military education at his schools in Minia, a city in south of Egypt. In response to his campaign, the school management changed the name of the school from Minia High School for Boys to Minia Military High School for Boys.

He was told that he would not receive his graduation certificate from the school and that he would be punished by serving 15 days of military training at a local military base. However, he persisted in his stance and boycotted the exam for military education. After escalating his cause, he was able to retrieve his file from the school and thus graduate from high school, winning his battle and setting a precedent for such schools.

The No to Military Services Movement has commended [8] Ahmed for his bravery:

The movement welcomes Ahmed Hassan for his bravery and his hanging on to his ideas and principles, and on confronting the penetration of the military establishment in the daily life after the military coup. The movement also calls on the Egyptian military to be committed to the international laws and to stop any military training for minors under 18 years old. The time has come to cleanse the Egyptian schools from all the forms of militarization and militarism.


Ahmed holding “Liars” banner. Image from his Twitter account @S_Takoza.

Global Voices conducted the following interview with Ahmed Hassan:

Global Voices (GV): What motivated you join the movement against compulsory military service?

Ahmed Hassan (AH): I heard about the movement before the revolution and I read about it on Maikel Nabil's blog (The movement's founder) and I found what he's doing brave. After reading more about compulsory military services, I came to believe that it's a form of slavery. After I rejected sitting my military education exam, I was contacted by the movement and then I became a member.

GV: What role can social media play in promoting social change?

AH: Social media is very important especially for young people and I think it plays a successful role in mobilization. But I believe the effects of social media are limited, although I am using it myself to spread the word about my causes and I also use it to mobilize for protests.

GV: How did your parents react to your activism?

AH: They knew about my situation at the school at the end of it, and when they knew they were upset and told me to dedicate my attention to my future. I talked to my father and convinced him about my stance and my rights. However, until now they're not happy about my political activism and I will continue to do it behind their backs!

GV: What other activities are you involved in at your community?

AH: I volunteer with other different youth groups such as 6th of April Movement. I was also part of a project on empowering young students’ participation in schools so they could form student groups and be active in their community. I also started a campaign against sexual harassment and I am also part of other arts initiatives.

GV: How do you wish to see Egypt in the future?

AH: As for the government, I wish it respects peoples’ rights and freedom. As for the people, I wish to see our people fully knowing their rights and actively seeking their realization.

GV: What would you like to say to other young people in your society?

AH: I say to young people of my generation, that we live in a time when people broke the barriers of fear and called for their rights so we must maintain this gain and never give anyone the opportunity to take that from us.

This post is part of our special coverage Egypt Revolution 2011 [1].