CAIRO - More than 100 Egyptian university professors staged a rare protest Tuesday against the interference of security forces on campuses and in support of the country's growing reform movement.
The silent demonstration held at Cairo University was called by the "movement of March 9 for the independence of universities" founded three years ago by Egyptian professors.
"No to the meddling of security forces in universities," "Yes to free and independent universities," read some of the banners.
Demonstrators handed out a statement charging that "the security forces' interference in academic and student affairs is detrimental to the freedom of professors and students in the performance of their academic work."
They were joined by students from the Kefaya ("Enough") movement, which has been the leading voice for democratic reform and human rights in Egypt in recent months.
Egypt has witnessed an unprecedented string of rallies calling for political and economic reforms and the lifting of the state of emergency imposed in 1981 after the assassination of president Anwar Sadat.
"This is the first protest in 20 years aimed at ending the security forces' interference in the appointment of staff and in student elections," political science professor Dina al-Khawaja said.
"University professors cannot disregard the need for reforms in Egypt," she added.
"Professors here are also demonstrating in solidarity with Egyptian judges," said journalism professor Awatef Abdel Rahman, pointing to growing demands for the independence of the judiciary.
Judges have also threatened to abstain from supervising the September presidential elections unless their demands for reforms are met.
Earlier this year Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who succeeded Sadat, announced that rival candidates will for the first time be able to stand in presidential polls.
Previously, voters were only given the opportunity to say yes or no in a referendum to a single candidate nominated by parliament, which is overwhelmingly dominated by Mubarak's ruling National Democratic Party.