The case of Laila Soueif
The Egyptian mathematician and activist Laila Soueif gets no respite. She is a Professor of Mathematics at Cairo University and a founder of the March 9 Movement for University Autonomy in Egypt, and she and her family know all too well Egypt’s political repression. In the 1980s, as their daughter Mona was born, her husband Ahmed Seif El-Islam, who had become known as an eminent lawyer and defender of human rights, was in prison for his left-wing political activity. In November 2013 following the coup d’état of Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sissi, Soueif saw her son Alaa, who had been the icon of the Egyptian Revolution of 2011, arrested once more. A few months later in June 2014, it was the turn of her daughter Sanaa, arrested in a demonstration calling for freeing political prisoners including Alaa. Hardly two months later, Soueif’s husband died from complications following heart surgery. Laila and her three children, two of them in prison, undertook a hunger strike which went on more than two months, protesting the imprisonment of Alaa and Sanaa.
In September 2019, Alaa, soon after being released from prison, was arrested anew, and Laila again worked for his release, along with her teaching at the University. After organizing a small demonstration calling for prisoners to be freed during the coronavirus epidemic, she was arrested in turn, but let go the next day. Prison visits being suspended and communication with families cut off, Laila Soueif began a sit-in in front of the prison demanding that she be allowed to receive a letter from Alaa. She was physically attacked there, along with her daughters who had gone to join her. When they went to the authorities to report the attack, Laila saw Sanaa taken away by out-of-uniform police, and held in prison.
Laila and Mona are being smeared constantly in state-owned newspapers which routinely publish articles claiming they are foreign agents, terrorist sympathizers, etc…
When the press is severely muzzled, supporters of human rights and democracy urgently need international support. Currently Laila Soueif continues to struggle for the release of her two children. We call on our colleagues and on mathematical societies to support her and her children by writing, in your respective countries, to
– your Ministry of Foreign Affairs;
– the Egyptian Embassy;
We invite you also to send messages to the Egyptian authorities, namely to
– the Public Prosecutor’s Office;
– the Ministry of Justice;
– the Ministry of Higher Education;
– the Presidency.
Ahmed Abbes, mathematician, Director of research at CNRS, Paris.
Tuna Altınel, Associate Professor of mathematics at University Claude Bernard Lyon 1.
Sir John Ball, FRS, Professor of mathematics at Heriot-Watt University, former President of the International Mathematical Union.
Michel Broué, Professor emeritus of mathematics at the University of Paris.
Chandler Davis, Professor emeritus of mathematics at the University of Toronto.
Adrien Deloro, Associate Professor of mathematics at Sorbonne Université.
Ivar Ekeland, FRSC, Professor emeritus of mathematics and former President, University of Paris-Dauphine.
Maria J. Esteban, mathematician, Director of research at CNRS, University Paris-Dauphine and PSL Research University.
Catherine Goldstein, Director of research at CNRS, Institut de mathématiques de Jussieu-Paris Gauche.
Mary W. Gray, Professor of mathematics and Statistics, American University.
Michael Harris, Professor of mathematics at Columbia University.
Helmut Hofer, Professor of mathematics at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton.
Ilya Kapovich, Professor of mathematics and Statistics, Hunter College of CUNY, Chair of the Committee on Human Rights of Mathematicians, American Mathematical Society.
Jair Koiller, Professor of mathematics, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.
Dusa McDuff, Kimmel Professor of mathematics at Barnard College, Columbia University.
John W. Milnor, Laureate of the Abel Prize (2011), Distinguished Professor of mathematics at Stony Brook University.
David Mumford, Professor Emeritus of mathematics, Brown and Harvard Universities, Laureate of the Fields Medal (1974), former President of the International Mathematical Union.
Bảo Châu Ngô, Professor of mathematics at the University of Chicago, Laureate of the Fields Medal (2010).
Joseph Oesterlé, Professor emeritus of mathematics at Sorbonne University, Paris.
Arthur Ogus, Professor emeritus of mathematics at the University of California, Berkeley.
Roshdi Rashed, historian of mathematics, Director of research emeritus at CNRS in Paris, Professor emeritus at the University of Mansoura in Egypt and Professor emeritus at the University of Tokyo.
Raphaël Rouquier, Professor of mathematics at the University of California at Los Angeles.
Graeme Segal, FRS, Professor of mathematics emeritus, All Souls College, Oxford, former President of the London Mathematical Society.
Stephen Smale, Professor emeritus of mathematics, University of California Berkeley, Laureate of the Fields Medal (1966).
Cédric Villani, Member of the French National Assembly, Laureate of the Fields Medal (2010).
Claude Viterbo, Professor of mathematics at the University of Paris-Saclay and at the École normale supérieure de Paris
Masha Vlasenko, Professor in the Institute of Mathematics of the Polish Academy of Sciences.
A list of Egyptian authorities’ addresses is available here