Archeologists protest ministry despite efforts to restore stolen antiquities
Minister of Antiquities Mohamed Ibrahim - YOUM7 (Archive)
By SARA OSAMA SHOUREAP

CAIRO: Protests are ongoing against the Ministry of Antiquities, despite its statements regarding the restoration of stolen and damaged antiquities.

Over the past several months, protests have been erupting against Mohamed Ibrahim since his taking over the minister of antiquities position after June 30.

Protester demands range from demanding that the minister do a better job to protect and restore antiquities, to improving the ministry’s administration and releasing detained colleagues.

“The maintenance of antiquities has not been among the priorities of several governments, since the government of former Prime Minister Kamal al-Ganzouri; yet there are many other people who have real ideas for change,” Monica Hanna, an Egyptian archaeologist  told The Cairo Post on March 15.

“The current minister didn’t succeed in any task since he was assigned,” Hanna added.

Hanna said archeologists were “on the right path to protest against Minister of Antiquities Mohamed Ibrahim,” since they have many problems with the administration which abolished their health insurance.

“The minister of antiquities is far from being efficient and creative,” she added.

“The number of antiquities that have been restored thus far by the ministry; is nothing compared to what has been lost. The number of stolen artifacts is enormous and they are more than those that have been smuggled throughout the 19th century,” she said.

Archeologists had denounced on March 12 the arrest of some of their colleagues, including Emad Agwa, the head of the Ministry of Antiquities’ Islamic Archeological Research and Scientific Publishing Bureau, according to Veto news website .

Sources from the Ministry of Antiquities told Veto on March 12 the minster had provided the National Security Agency with more than ten names of archeologists affiliated to the Muslim Brotherhood.

The Campaign for the Protection of Heritage and Antiquities denounced the re-appointment of Mohamed Ibrahim to the ministry by Ibrahim Mahlab, and called on Mohamed Ibrahim to “keep an eye on” archeological sites and develop them, in a Feb. 28 campaign statement.

On Feb. 27, several Ministry of Antiquities employees organized a protest to demand the dismissal of the minister of antiquities, the “purification” of the ministry from corruption, and the protection of archeological sites from trespasses and violations, according to Youm7.

The Dokki Court of Appeals rejected a lawsuit on Feb. 26 filed by Marwa Reda al-Zeiny, a specialist in the field of restoring antiquities, against Minister of Antiquities Mohamed Ibrahim accusing him of neglecting archaeological sites and denouncing an increase in antiquity thefts.

Dozens organized a protest on July 21, 2013 against the Minister of Antiquities for “spreading and concealing corruption cases,” according to Sayed Alaa, a ministry employee who had then said that the workers organized around 58 protests throughout the year.

The protests and denunciations come in light of a number of incidents affecting museums during the past period.

An attack on the Cairo Security Directorate on Jan. 24 damaged the 111-year-old Museum of Islamic Art causing over 100 million EGP ($14 million) in losses, Mohamed Ibrahim said on Jan. 24.

According to a Feb. 6 UNESCO statement, approximately 161 antiquities, some of which date back to the ninth century, had been damaged in the attack.

In addition, Mallawi Museum in Upper Egypt was seriously damaged in the wake of the dispersal of the Muslim Brotherhood Rabaa al-Adaweya sit-in in August 2013, and hundreds of ancient Egyptian artifacts were stolen from it.

The head of the museums sector Ahmed Sharaf said in a statement on August 16, that preliminary estimates showed that 1040 artifacts out of 1089 in Mellawi museum were missing.

The Ministry of Antiquities issued a full report at the beginning of January 2014 about the stolen and restored artifacts and the recoveries of the ministry.

According to Reuters, 1,000 artifacts have been stolen from a museum in southern Egypt since the ouster of former President Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

Last December, thieves broke into a museum in Aswan stealing 96 artifacts, according to a statement issued by the Ministry of Antiquities on Jan. 1.

Despite, the ongoing protests against Mohamed Ibrahim since his assignment in July, the Ministry of Antiquities issued various statements regarding the restoration of antiquities and the thwarting of theft attempts.

According to Masrawy news website, Mohamed Ibrahim said on March 4 that the ministry had been able  to restore 1, 469 artifacts out of 8, 310 artifacts stolen during the January 25 Revolution, adding that the ministry sought to make agreements with France, Germany, and England to report any smuggled antiquities.

Ibrahim also recently made a trip to Washington in an effort to restore Egyptian antiquities smuggled abroad and to discuss the means of cooperation between the two countries. During the visit, Ibrahim released a press statement saying that 8 antiquities had been restored in coordination with U.S. authorities,  including a number of ancient Egyptian tombs, adding that they convinced Ebay to halt the auctioning of 200 stolen pieces on its website.

The Egyptian embassy in Belgium also exerted efforts to restore antiquities stolen from the Egyptian museum, the statement said, adding that there were talks with Germany and that Egypt was about to restore artifacts from Israel.

The Ministry of Antiquities also signed an agreement on March 11 with the International Coalition to Protect Antiquities to provide financial and technical assistance and training courses to Egypt in order to enhance and protect Egyptian cultural heritage. The agreement also includes protecting different archeological sites.

Major General Momtaz Fathy, head of the general administration of the Tourism Police, had announced on Feb. 5 the retrieval of 2,320 antiquities that been stolen during the January 25 Revolution.

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Comments

  1. Peter Lacovara
    March 16, 2014 at 11:02 pm

    I think this is very unfair. Anyone in that position would have a difficult time of it now and from what I can see Mohammed Ibrihim is doing his best.

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