Artists, writers, publishers, actors, filmmakers, and ministry employees have rallied against Egypt’s sixth post-Jan. 25 culture minister:
Alaa Abdel-Aziz — who’s sparked several protests since taking office last week, including the egging of his car — struck back on Wednesday with a Facebook announcement that he was going to “fight corruption” in the ministry.
When the Morsi government announced Alaa Abdel-Aziz was Egypt’s new culture minister on May 6, many had never heard of him. In the scramble for information about the erstwhile cinema professor, one of the first things that came up was a piece he’d written for the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice portal, in which he supported Morsi against the media-“exaggerated” “counter-revolution” : المشهد السياسى ووهم استنساخ الثورة.
Despite immediate opposition to Abdel-Aziz’s tenure, the new culture minister didn’t start quietly. On Sunday, Abdel-Aziz fired Ahmed Megahed, the head of the General Egyptian Book Organisation (GEBO), without official explanation. Megahed was replaced by Gamal el-Tellawy.
Megahed told Ahram Online that he had gone to his office on Sunday as usual and found the decision waiting on his desk.
The cause of the firing may have been a reported argument between Abdel-Aziz and Megahed over the new minister’s intention to change the name of the Maktabat al-Osra (The Family’s Library) book series to Maktabat al-Sowra (The Revolution’s Library).
The minister’s week did not go well after that. According to Ahram Online:
The minister was expected to participate in the opening of a new gallery at Hanager Arts Centre, but cancelled the event after he was informed that angry protesters are awaiting him. Instead, the minister spent his time that night in one of Cairo’s downtown restaurants. Protesters found him out, went to the restaurant and trapped the minister inside for a while before the workers managed to get him out through a back door. Protesters followed his car and egged it.
According to the Middle East Online, there were more than 300 people in front of the restaurant.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Culture’s Wednesday statement asserted that the staff of the culture ministry, particularly the “young employees,” supported Alaa Abdel-Aziz. The statement said that Abdel-Aziz will support any ministry employees in need of help.
Those who oppose the minister are set to hold a press conference at the Journalists’ Syndicate on Saturday May 18.
After 25 years of Farouk Hosni (who was recently cleared of illegal profiteering charges), Abdel-Aziz is Egypt’s sixth culture minister since January 30, 2011. Up until Abdel-Aziz, all have been well-known figures:
Gaber Asfour (Jan 30 – Feb 8, 2011)
Mohamed al-Sawy (mid-February, 2011)
Emad Abu-Ghazi (March – Nov 20, 2011)
Shaker Abdel-Hamid (Nov 2011 – May 2012)
Mohamed Saber Arab (May 2012 – May 6 2013)
Alaa Abdel-Aziz (May 6 – present)
As Ahram Online notes, “Abdel-Aziz is not only the sixth culture minister since January 2011, but also — without counting El-Sawy — the first to come from a completely different cultural background.”