Artists vow to continue culture ministry sit-in until demands are met

Ahram Online, Friday 5 Jul 2013

A month after Egyptian artists and intellectuals started their culture ministry sit-in, they decide to stand their ground in protest of former culture minister's decisions

Artists and intellectuals gather inside the meeting room, in the Ministry of Culture to discuss their plans. 4 July 2013 evening (Photo: Ati Metwaly)

Egyptian artists and intellectuals have announced that they will continue their sit-in at the culture ministry in Cairo's Zamalek district until their demands are met.

The protesters will continue their sit-in until a new prime minister is appointed, and the decisions taken by former minister of culture Alaa Abdel-Aziz are nullified, according to a statement released on Friday.

Abdel-Aziz has caused frustration among many of Egypt's cultural figures. Since his appointment in May, the former culture minister sacked 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.

Many artists and intellectuals feared Abdel-Aziz would impose an Islamist agenda on Egypt's culture scene, compromising its diversity.

The protesters also urged that the will of Egypt's intellectuals be taken into account while setting the standards for the candidate who would represent Egypt's culture as minister.

The artists stressed the importance of representing Egypt's artists and intellectuals in the constitutional assembly. They demanded to receive no less than 10 percent of the seats on the committee.

The statement also emphasised the responsibility of the new culture minister to organise a national conference for intellectuals. Under the theme "The future of Egyptian culture," the conference would chronicle the realities of contemporary Egyptian culture and the mechanisms for its development in light of the current changes in the political and cultural realms. The conference would also propose a strategic road map for the upcoming period with regards to the relationship between culture and society and the mechanisms of constructing new polices for culture to nurture such relationships.

A vision for restoring the rights of the Egyptian people and safeguarding national culture was also put forward in the statement. A collaborative framework featuring the participation of multiple state institutions, including the ministries of culture, education, information, youth and endowments, and religious institutions, such as Al-Azhar and the Church, as well as civil society organisations.

On 5 June, a group of Egyptian artists and intellectuals occupied the culture ministry building, demanding the dismissal of Alaa Abdel-Aziz and the demise of the Muslim Brotherhood rule.

Artists and intellectuals had initially decided to end the sit-in after ejected president Mohamed Morsi was ousted on Wednesday following a televised speech by Minister of Defence Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi in which a new 'road map' for Egypt was proposed.

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