Islamists clash with artists at Egyptian culture ministry Tuesday

Ahram Online, Wednesday 12 Jun 2013

Muslim Brotherhood supporters try to break up sit-in by artists outside Ministry of Culture in Cairo, several police injured

culture minister
Pro and anti-culture minister protesters clash on the banks of the Nile in Zamalek, outside ministry. (Photo: Mai Shaheen)

Clashes took place outside the Ministry of Culture on Tuesday when Muslim Brotherhood supporters attempted to break up a sit-in calling for the dismissal of Culture Minister Alaa Abdel-Aziz.

Filmmakers, writers, intellectuals and activists have been occupying the ministry in Zamalek since last Wednesday to protest the dismissal of key ministry officials which they claim is part of a plan to 'Brotherhoodise' the ministry - a charge the minister denies.

Altercations began when supporters of the Brotherhood, the group that propelled President Mohamed Morsi to power, arrived and began shouting slogans. The artists responded in kind and clashes broke out.

The crowds moved to a nearby bridge where they exchanged volleys of stones, witnesses said.

Several people were injured in the violence, including three police officers.

Prominent Brotherhood activist Ahmed Al-Mogheer was among those injured. A video showed him being beaten up by anti-government protesters, including female activist Rasha Azab.

Police later ended the clashes and escorted a bloodied Al-Mogheer to a police vehicle.

Al-Mogheer, known as a key ally of Brotherhood deputy leader Khairat El-Shater, was accused of involvement in vicious clashes between supporters and opponents of President Morsi outside the presidential palace in December 2012.

Since his appointment four weeks ago, Culture Minister Alaa Abdel-Aziz has sacked key members of Egypt's cultural scene, creating a political battleground with artists and intellectuals.

Among those sacked were Cairo Opera House head Enas Abdel-Dayem, Egyptian General Book Authority head Ahmed Mujahid, Fine Arts Sector head Salah El-Meligy and National Library and Archives head Abdel-Nasser Hassan.

Last week, Supreme Council for Culture head Said Tawfik resigned in protest at the dismissals.

Protesters have prevented Abdel-Aziz from entering his office at the ministry since Wednesday 5 June.

Dancers from the Cairo Opera Ballet Company performed outside the ministry on Sunday to challenge statements by some Islamist MPs that ballet should be banned because it involves "nudity."

Many artists and intellectuals accuse the culture minister of attempting to impose an Islamist agenda that would quash the diversity of Egyptian culture.

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