The murder of Giulio Regeni – The Importance of Safeguarding Academic Freedom for a Better World

Josef Moussa, Sina Lipp



What questions raises Giulio’s case and why its answers urgently require a strong formation of the whole scientific community

Giulio Regeni’s half-naked body was found in a ditch near Cairo on the 2nd of February after he disappeared on the 25th of January, the anniversary of Egypt’s Revolution. Giulio’s body showed signs of extreme and inhuman torture leading to a slow, painful death.
He was a young, talented researcher, just like one of us. While it is certainly not an isolated case and very much of a European matter to enlighten his murder, we should ask ourselves how we as a scientific community should position ourselves to encounter a severe attack on academic freedom.

Giulio grew up in Fiumicello in the north east of Italy. As a teenager he won a scholarship that allowed him to spend two formative years studying at the United World College in New Mexico. After obtaining a first class degree for his Bachelor of Arts in Arabic and Politics at the University of Leeds and a Master’s degree in Development Studies at the University of Cambridge, he went on to study and research social and economic developments in the Middle East as a PhD student at the Girton College, University of Cambridge. At the age of 28, he stood out with his idealism and ambition, and he was committed to pursuing a career that would allow him to make his contributions for a better world. He went to Egypt not to settle for prefabricated truths, he went on to study the difficult and complex world of trade unions in the post-Mubarak era. He did this at a time when the global and academic discourse seem to run against trade unionism.

Many suspect that Giulio Regeni was interrogated and tortured by Egyptian security forces, who may have been seeking information about the contacts Giulio has made during his field work. Labour activists and representatives of the independent trade unions have been considered to be an important revolutionary element of the Egyptian society in the past as well as today.

Even though Giulio’s death deserves special attention, it is important to stress that Giulio’s tragic death is one amongst many. Not only in Egypt.

While this year’s ISA Forum general topic can be read as a powerful demand to take up the struggle for a better world and to actively contribute to a Future we want, Giulio Regeni’s fate reminds us of the restraints we have to face in order to achieve this demand.

We, the academic community have to prevent academic freedom from its complete erosion.

We have to solidarize in case of direct challenges to academic freedom like Giulio Regeni‘s murder was one.

We have to remind us once again, that no one is immune to attacks on academic freedom as it’s not limited by geography nor by tactics.

In order to safeguard academic freedom and to achieve some of the ideas which will be discussed at the ISA Forum in Vienna, we ask you to join the call for #TruthforGiulioRegeni #VeritaperGiulio, a broad social-media campaign to raise awareness and international pressure on Egyptian politics to find out the truth about Giulio’s death.

Further reading:


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