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Samer Soliman, Prominent Academic and Activist, Dies at Forty-Four

[Samer Soliman. 1968-2012] [Samer Soliman. 1968-2012]

Egyptian academic, activist, and author Samer Soliman has died after a battle with terminal illness. He was forty-four years old.

Soliman was a founding member of the Egyptian Social Democratic Party and the Egyptians Against Religious Discrimination Movement. He was also professor of political economy at the American University in Cairo (AUC).

Soliman graduated in 1990 from Cairo University with a BSc in economics. He then earned a diploma in African studies in 1992, followed by a Masters in sociology from AUC in 1997. He earned his Ph.D. in political science from the Institute of Political Studies in Paris in 2004.

Soliman worked as an affiliated researcher at the CEDEJ (Centre d'etudes et de documentations economiques, juridiques et sociales) in Cairo. He also worked at, and was one of the founders of, the French Al-Ahram Hebdo, beginning in 1994. He worked as a journalist with Ahram Online and contributed to many publications, including El-BoslaEl-Watan, and El-Shorouk newspaper.

The main publication of Dr. Soliman is the book Strong Regime, Weak State: The fiscal crisis and political change in Egypt under Mubarak.

Soliman also published a lengthy piece in the series, "Cairo Papers in Social Science," under the title State and Industrial Capitalism in Egypt.

Soliman came from a middle class Egyptian Christian family. Both of his parents were teachers. He was raised in downtown Cairo and attended an Egyptian French school.

In one interview published in the Democratizing New Egypt blog, shortly after the revolution in 2011, Soliman said that he was raised in a political family.

“I grew up in a politicized family. Many people in my family were interested in or engaged in politics. I was raised in a secular family,” Soliman said. “My family was Christian, but secular. My mother is religious. My father was a communist … I was never raised as a Copt. I was raised as a nationalist, in a secular home that was somehow leftist.”

Soliman said that he began to understand the sectarian issue in Egypt when he entered the army, which he called “a corrupt institution based on wasta (nepotism).” However, he added that it gave him an intense education in the social situation in Egypt.

“I got in deep touch with the peasants, uneducated peasants from deep in the Egyptian countryside. [It was an amazing social education.] There is strong solidarity among soldiers with regard to the big monster, the institution of the military,” Soliman said in the interview.

Soliman was a much-loved professor at AUC. His student Mariam Kirollos, a graduate of political science and sociology, told Ahram Online that his death “is a great loss.”

"He was an amazing professor. He was very enthusiastic, very understanding and open to discussion,” she said. “He encouraged me to enter politics with him. He had so much compassion for his students. His lectures were extremely insightful. He was the most wonderful teacher you could have."

Karima Hafez, another AUC student who took classes with Soliman, said that he left a huge legacy.

"He used to give the political science introductory courses and we owe him a lot. He opened our eyes to the corruption in the country,” Hafez said. “I remember his passion for teaching. He was the only professor that you would see in protests all the time. It’s a great loss but his legacy will remain."

Soliman leaves behind wife Mary Mourad Shenouda, activist and editor of the books section at Ahram Online.

[Originally appeared on Ahram Online]