The Falcon Security Firm has been engaged to provide security for 15 state universities and Al-Azhar University’s main campus, an arrangement that goes into effect ahead of the opening of the new academic year on October 11, the privately owned Al-Masry Al-Youm (AMAY) newspaper reported on Monday.
The firm will install heavy steel gates in front of electronic gates at campus entrances, a measure to contain violence if riots break out on university grounds, the group’s executive director Sherif Khaled told AMAY.
Private security guards will undergo specific training to deal with students, Khaled said, adding that the security firm’s role is not to intervene into the students’ activities, but rather protect them from the threat of violence or plans to disrupt the educational process.
Female security guards will also be present to inspect female students, especially at Al-Azhar University, in order to prevent possible altercations between female students and security guards. The guards will not be armed with live ammunition in order to prevent any expected escalation of violence or bloodshed, Khaled continued.
Contracting with a private security firm is considered an alternative to direct police presence on campus, which the student community has staunchly refused, viewing any police intervention as a serious threat to campus independence and academic freedoms.
University campuses have been the scene of bloody confrontations between police forces and various student groups — many belonging to the banned Muslim Brotherhood organization — since the ouster of Islamist President Mohamed Morsi.
In the last academic year, at least 13 students were killed, dozens injured and hundreds arrested in Egypt’s worst crackdown on academic freedoms in the last 70 years, according to the Association of Freedom of Thought and Expression.
Falcon Group is the same security firm that was in charge of safeguarding President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi presidential campaign in 2014.
According to its official website, the firm was originally established in 1974 as part of the Commercial International Bank (CIB) security and safety department tasked with money transfers.
Given Falcon’s profile and size, it can be considered an army of its own. The group’s customers include the National Bank of Egypt, the Central Bank of Egypt, Cairo Bank, HSBC, and a whole host of other banking corporations. Diplomatic missions and offices including the embassies of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, as well as the United Nations and a number of UN bodies, also count among its clients.
An investigation by the privately owned Yanair website referred to links between the group, Egyptian business tycoon Naguib Sawiris and former intelligence officer Sameh Seif al-Yazal. Both men were not available for comment on the alleged links during a previous investigation by Mada Masr.