Artists gathered in front of the Ministry of Culture. Photo posted on the blog Egyptian Chronicles
For days now, dozens of Egyptian artists and intellectuals have been occupying the headquarters of the Ministry of Culture in Cairo to demand the resignation of the new culture minister, whom the protesters accuse of “Islamising” the sector.
Alaa Abdel Aziz taught film editing at the Cairo Higher Institute of Cinema. President Morsi nominated him to become the culture minister in early May in order to “fight against corruption” .
Protest in front of the Ministry of Culture.
Since he began his new job, the minister fired the director of the Cairo Opera, as well as both the Director of Fine Arts and the Director of Literature. These actions have infuriated many intellectuals, who in early June began a sit-in in front of and in the Ministry of Culture in Cairo to call for the minister’s resignation.
As a sign of protest, various cultural officials have resigned, including the Secretary General of Egypt's Supreme Council of Culture Saeed Tawfik, who accused the authorities to be “brother-ifying” [in reference to the Muslim Brotherhood] artistic expression.
Tensions rose on Tuesday when dozens of supporters of P²resident Morsi arrived at the ministry, located in the upscale Zamalek neighbourhood, to clear out the protesters. The two factions faced off
and threw rocks at each other, causing several mild injuries. The police, who had been deployed around the entire building, intervened before the situation could degenerate any further.
On Tuesday, Muslim Brotherhood supporters organised a counter-protest, which turned into a clash with the artists.
The personnel of the prestigious Cairo Opera, who were the first affected by the Ministry of Culture’s new measures, went on an indefinite strike after the minister fired the Opera’s director, Ines Abdel Dayem, a renowned flutist. Last Sunday, dancers from the Cairo Opera Ballet Company put on “Zorba” in the street as a challenge to the minister and to taunt a member of the Shura Council (the upper house of the Egyptian Parliament) who called for the ballet to be shut down because he said it incited debauchery.
Members of the Cairo Opera Ballet Company dancing “Zorba” in the middle of the street last Sunday in a challenge to the culture minister.