Egypt's National Library and Archives sees protest as chief pushed out

Mohammed Saad , Sunday 20 May 2012

The decision of the new minister of culture to not renew the mandate of National Library head Zain Abdel-Hady is viewed by some as revenge against revolutionaries by old regime sympathisers

Zain AbdelHady
Photo: Ayman Hafez

Egypt’s minister of culture, Saber Arab, has refused to renew Zain Abdel-Hady's tenure as chief of Egypt’s National Library and Archives (NLA). The minister declined to give any reason for the decision to Ahram Online, simply answering “No comment.”

Some observers see the move as a clear case of revenge, while others see it as part of a political battle between the old regime and revolutionaries.

Abdel-Hady also refused to comment on the decision directly, but told Ahram Online that during his last meeting with Arab, the minister had promised to renew his mandate. 

Oddly, the decision was made days after Arab said he would extend Abdel-Hady's period in office. The latter had headed the NLA under a short-term contract, which ended 18 May. The minister had conditioned the extension on Abdel-Hady getting approval from Helwan University, where he works as a professor of information sciences, to loan him on a full-time basis to devote his efforts to the NLA.

Abdel-Hady received the university’s approval, yet the minister refused to keep Abdel-Hady in office.

The decision ignited the anger of NLA employees, demanding Abdel-Hady remain in his post. Employees staged a protest in front of the NLA headquarters on the Nile Corniche to object to the Arab’s decision.

Abdel-Hady previously headed up the library's central department, also supervising the librarians' department in the Faculty of Literature at Helwan University.

Old regime versus the revolution

Arab, who was appointed only a week ago as part of the limited cabinet reshuffle, had been chief of the NLA himself until December. Insiders at the NLA called Arab's decision not to renew Abdel-Hady's contract as "revenge" for excluding Arab's allies in the NLA after he retired.

According to Abdel-Hady, this was discussed between the minister and himself in a Saturday meeting, stating that the minister promised in this meeting to renew his mandate. Arab could not be reached to confirm this.

The April 6 Youth Movement issued a statement Saturday accusing Arab of being anti-revolution for not extending Abdel-Hady's contract. The statement claims that the decision was made against Abdel-Hady because he chose to promote Hamdeen Sabbahi, a long-time Mubarak regime opponent, in the presidential race, instead of backing Mubarak's former prime minister, Ahmed Shafiq, as Arab is doing.

The influential youth movement further accused interim NLA supervisor, Laila Galal, of being a member of the now dissolved National Democratic Party, led by ousted president Mubarak.

Abdel-Hady told Ahram Online that he knew about the April 6 Youth Movement statement before it hit the media, saying that he is not aware of the new minister's political tendencies.

Arab continued to be unreachable as this story went to print.

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