New head of culture agency appointed; aims to save Egypt state prizes

Mohammed Saad , Sunday 2 Jun 2013

Intellectuals say it is hypocritical to accept a position from a culture minister you oppose; however newly-appointed Secretary-General Noman counters $1 million in state prizes are in danger if he doesn't

Professor Said Tawfik, Head of the SCC
Professor Said Tawfik, former Head of the SCC

Professor Tareq Noman accepts the position of interim secretary general of Egypt's Supreme Council for Culture (SCC) despite his vocal opposition to the figure who offered him the post, Morsi-appointed Culture Minister Alaa Abdel-Aziz.

Professor Noman succeeds Dr Said Tawfiq, who resigned on Wednesday, 29 May in protest over the culture minister's seemingly arbitrary sacking of various senior directors in public office and Abdel-Aziz's silence in the face of calls to immobilise the SCC by decreasing its budget and canceling the state prizes that are awarded by the SCC.

The annual SCC meeting is expected to be held in early June to discuss and announce the highest state cultural prizes.

Noman justifies his decision: "I asked Professor Said Tawfiq not to resign from his post or at least delay this decision until after the annual meeting where we award the state cultural prizes to guarantee that the minister will not cancel the meeting and withhold all state prizes – which will deprive intellectuals of LE7 million [$1 million) in prizes," Noman explained.

Speaking to Ahram Online, Noman says Tawfiq was not persuaded by his arguments. According to Noman, Tawfiq claims he was put under unbearable pressure where he would eventually either be forced to obey the culture minister or be ineffectual in office.

Furthermore, Tawfiq counters that the culture minister trumps the SCC's secretary general and can halt or proceed with the meeting if so chooses.

The SCC meeting has yet to be scheduled, leaving some fearing it may be cancelled altogether. Members of the Islamist-dominated Shura Council, the upper house of Egypt's parliament (currently endowed with legislative powers), have demanded that the SCC budget be reduced, along with the value of state cultural and artistic prizes.

The SCC is considered one of the most important pillars of Egypt's culture ministry, as it is responsible for setting ministry policies and organising ministry activities.

The SCC is also responsible for granting state cultural prizes, traditionally announced in June, in different disciplines of literature, arts and human sciences.

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