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Arts academy director starts war against Morsi-appointed culture minister

Old dispute between Sameh Mahran and the Morsi-appointed Culture Minister Abdel-Aziz surfaced quicker than expected, taking a scandalous bend

Mohammed Saad , Tuesday 14 May 2013
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White villa housing the Ministry of Culture, Zamalek, Cairo (Photo: Ati Metwaly)
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The Egyptian Academy of Arts hosted a conference to protest President Morsi's appointment of Alaa Abdel-Aziz El-Sayed Abdel-Fattah as culture minister, who is deemed by some intellectuals as the Muslim Brotherhood’s Trojan horse inside the ministry.

The conference, which was not heavily attended, was hosted by the academy's Director Sameh Mahran in cooperation with the Egyptian Creativity Front LINK.

Mahran said that the conference comes to stand against the "unremitting attempts by Egypt’s new rulers to impose their form of culture on Egypt's diverse culture through the newly-appointed minister." Furthermore, Mahran says that Abdel-Aziz, a professor of film editing at the academy, has no academic or other merits to take this post.

A conflict between Mahran and the new minister was expected: Abdel-Aziz participated in a sit-in against Mahran in March 2012 and was among the professors who accused Mahran of administrative and financial corruption. Abdel-Aziz and many other professors were then investigated on charges of assaulting Mahran and damaging his car.

"I demand this minister be removed from his post and investigated for corruption in the Academy of Arts. The academy, the entire staff and I condemn his appointment as he has no academic or personal merits to take the post," Mahran said.

The Egyptian Creativity Front also demanded the minister be relieved from his post and Abdel-Jalil Sharnouby delivered their statement that "choosing this minister, who is not worth our comment, is another evidence to the fact that the new authority in Egypt is trying to take over the cultural institutions in their bid to control all the country's institutions."

The Front announced the launch of a new campaign against the minister called Misr Misrana (Egypt, our Egypt), that will be responsible for organising the protest movement against Abdel-Aziz, who has been in office for eight days now.

A protest march will start at the Hanager Arts Centre at 1:30pm Tuesday and head to the culture ministry headquarters in Zamalek to call on the minister to resign. The front will also start a campaign to document all "the violations of freedom of expression under President Morsi’s rule and organise a conference to discuss the future of Egyptian culture."

The conference was not as fierce as the one held by Mahran in March 2012 (to refute the claims of his corruption), nevertheless, this time Mahran did not forget to mention the minister's infamous CD.

According to Mahran, there is a CD of sexual content from an alleged relationship between the minister and one of his students at the academy. The incident remained unknown to the public until Mahran announced it one day after Abdel-Aziz was appointed.

"The academy received the CD, which was extracted from Abdel-Aziz’s computer by one of his friends. The Academy presented the material to the former minister of culture, Saber Arab while he was in office and we were about to proceed with the investigations, but Abdel-Aziz's new legal status as minister halted the proceedings,” Mahran explained.

"I did not personally see the CD but I was informed about its content," he added.

Famous actor, Hussein Fahmy, who was present at the conference, drew comparisons between the current ministers and the great ministers of the '50s and '60s, like Tharwat Okasha (minister from 1958-1962 and again from 1967-1970).

The current minister does not meet the prestige of the glorious years of Egypt’s culture, said Fahmy, who went so far as to assert that there is a conspiracy.

"We must stand united against any attempt to jeopardise our cultural identity, which is more diverse and versatile than the political current that this minister represents.” Fahmy added, in reference to the ruling Muslim Brotherhood.

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