Artists dismayed after presidential security 'trash' equipment at Cairo Opera House

Ahram Online , Sunday 10 Jan 2016

Photos of an invasive security search of musicians' instruments ahead of the speech given by president Sisi at the Opera Saturday went viral, provoking condemnation among many

Search held at the Cairo Opera House
Photo posted on the Ministry of Culture Egyptian Ultras’ Facebook page after the presidential security reportedly carried a search in the Cairo Opera Orchestra's room and emptied the lockers, scattering musicians' instruments and personal belongings on the floor. (Photo: Courtesy of the Ministry of Culture Egyptian Ultras’ Facebook page)

Many artists expressed dismay after photos of instruments thrown all over a floor at the Cairo Opera Orchestra reportedly by Egyptian presidential security went viral on social media on Saturday.

Presidential security conducted a search of the Opera House ahead of President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi’s scheduled speech on the National Youth Day at the Opera.

Many musicians expressed their dismay at the invasiveness exhibited in the search process, where musicians’ instruments and personal belongings were carelessly handled and scattered on the floor.

The photos were initially posted by the Ministry of Culture Egyptian Ultras’ Facebook page, which condemned the search and described it as an “encroachment not only on musical instruments, but also on art, and the Ministry of Culture.”

The group called on the presidency to apologise and “to offer an explanation if one exists, and hold the ones behind it accountable.”

According to information provided by Reda El-Wakil, the artistic director of the Cairo Opera House, the management was informed of the scheduled search well in advance of Saturday’s event.

All musicians and personnel were informed to keep their rooms and lockers open “before the 7 January holiday because the presidential security would enter the venue on Friday 8 January," El-Wakil wrote on his Facebook wall in response to the outcry about the circulated photos.

“The only management that did not take these instructions seriously was the [Cairo Opera Orchestra] management, and most of the musicians’ personal lockers were shut, and comprised closed instrument cases."

“For the security guards, leaving the cupboards locked despite clear instructions to keep them open only indicates the possibility of some danger" to which they responded by breaking open the lockers, he added.

However, the musicians still expressed concern about the way the search was conducted, and the obvious carelessness with which the musical instruments and personal belongings were treated.

“The opera is a big venue and the security guards did not have the time to properly close the lockers, so they left them open, with [instruments lying] on the floor next to [the musician’s] personal belongings,” El-Wakil explained. 

According to a musician from the Cairo Opera Orchestra, such searches are not new to the artists, as they were also conducted under former president Hosni Mubarak's rule. The source added, however, that this is the first time that one company failed to pass the information to its members and that the search was executed in such a chaotic manner.

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