Egyptian artists ask army to protect national archives from minister's 'plot'

Ahram Online, Monday 10 Jun 2013

Protesting artists claim that culture minister's firing of National Archives chief is a threat to Egypt's national security

Artists and intellectuals continue their sit-in at the Ministry of Culture in Zamalek. (Photo: Ayman
Artists and intellectuals continue their sit-in at the Ministry of Culture in Zamalek. (Photo: Ayman Hafez)

Following the sacking on Saturday of the head of the National Archives by Culture Minister Alaa Abdel-Aziz, a number of Egyptian intellectuals have called for the intervention of the army to secure the heritage institution in lights of threats to “national security.”

Abdel-Aziz, appointed in May, initiated a fierce row with many prominent members of Egypt’s culture scene in recent weeks, when he sacked a number of high level culture officials.

Artists have been staging a sit-in at the culture ministry in Zamalek since Wednesday, demanding that the minister, who they accuse of attempts to “Brotherhoodise” the culture scene, step down.

In a statement issued on Monday, protesting artists called for the armed forces, the Egyptian masses, and international organisations to intervene in the situation and to establish a neutral committee of experts to regulate and administer the country's National Library and Archives.

The artists emphasised the importance of the two institutions, saying that they contain important documents which, if compromised, could affect the country's sovereignty and national security.

The call came in a statement by film director Magdy Ahmed Ali during a meeting that took place inside the occupied ministry in Zamalek, in response to the sacking of the National Archives chief Abdel-Wahed El-Nabawe, as well as three other senior officials, on Saturday.

The protesters occupying the ministry argued that the sackings could be indicative of “a systematic plot to control access to the country's history."

The statement pointed out the importance of the documents held in the archives, such as those dealing with the country's borders, Jewish history in Egypt, and the history of the Muslim Brotherhood, in addition to the original blueprints of various historical monuments.

The protesting artists urged the army to intervene quickly to guarantee the secrecy and safety of such documents. The statement added that the appointment on Tuesday of Khaled Fahmy, professor of Arabic literature at Menoufiya University, to the position of overall manager of both the National Archives and the National Library, is "an initiative done by the Muslim Brotherhood to have power over Egypt's culture."

Protesters involved in the sit-in at the culture ministry over the last week include novelists Bahaa Taher and Sonallah Ibrahim, film director Khaled Youssef, and cinema industry figures Galal El-Sharkawy, Fardos Abdel-Hamid, Sameh El-Seriety, Mahmoud Kabil and Nabil El-Helfawy, scriptwriter Mohamed El-Adl, and political figures Ahmed Hararah and Hussien Abdel Ghani.

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