Egypt’s Antiquities Chief Quits Cabinet, Warns of Looting
2011 03 04

By Hamza Hendawi | AOLNews.com



Egypt’s top archaeologist, Zahi Hawass, warned that the country’s antiquity sites were being looted by criminals amid the country’s political upheaval as he announced he would no longer serve in his ministerial post in the government.

Hawass was quoted in the Friday editions of Cairo’s dailies as saying he would not participate in the new government to be led by prime minister designate Essam Sharaf. Hawass, the longtime head of Egypt’s antiquities office, was elevated to Cabinet-level antiquities minister on Jan. 31, when ousted President Hosni Mubarak named a new government led by longtime friend Ahmed Shafiq.


Zahi Hawass, Secretary General of the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities, has issued a statement warning that looting has increased since President Hosni Mubarak was ousted and his country’s archaeological treasures are "in grave danger."
Khaled Desouki, AFP / Getty Image

Shafiq resigned Thursday amid calls by protesters for his removal, and Sharaf has been tasked with naming a new government.

Hawass said he was no longer able to protect the country’s antiquities because of what he called the absence of police protection and because he was the victim of a campaign against him by senior officials at his ministry.

Egypt’s antiquities, he warned, were in "grave danger" from criminals. He called on the youth groups behind the 18-day uprising that forced Mubarak to step down Feb. 11 to help protect antiquity sites.

"Since Mubarak’s resignation, looting has increased all over the country, and our antiquities are in grave danger from criminals trying to take advantage of the current situation," he wrote on his website.

Repeated attempts by The Associated Press to reach Hawass have failed.

On his website, Hawass listed some two dozen archaeology sites that have been raided by thieves since Mubarak’s ouster. The sites include the warehouse used by archaeologist from New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art at Dahshour, a pyramids site on the outskirts of Cairo. Hawass also said illegal construction has taken place on antiquity sites.

The list includes ancient Egyptian tombs, Islamic sites and warehouses and are spread across much of the country from the outskirts of Cairo, the Sinai Peninsula and the southernmost city of Aswan.

The looting is part of a crime wave that has gripped Egypt since Jan. 28, when the police mysteriously disappeared from most of the country following deadly clashes with the anti-government protesters. The army was called out to restore order, but it has been unable to fully take on a policing role.

The police have yet to fully retake the streets, leaving a security vacuum in which criminals, including several thousand inmates who escaped prisons, are operating with impunity in parts of the country. The police force is widely hated for years of abuse against Egyptians and because of its brutal crackdown on protesters. Only about 50 percent of the police force is thought to have returned to work and there are reports that hundreds of officers want to quit.

Archaeology sites have chronically been a soft target for thieves because of their isolated location and the relative ease with which lowly paid guards can be bribed to look the other way.

"The situation looks very difficult today and we are trying our best to ensure the police and army restore full protection to the cultural heritage of the country," Hawass said on his website.

Hawass has for more than decade been the international face of Egypt’s archaeology, with his trademark "Indiana Jones" hat turning him into an instantly recognizable global icon. Hawass, however, has been the target of a recent series of heavily publicized protests by archaeology graduates who accused him of corruption and seeking publicity for himself.

He has been accused of being too close to Mubarak and his family, along with former culture minister Farouq Hosni, himself a protege of the Mubaraks who had served in the Cabinet for 25 years until he was left out from the Shafiq’s government.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art joined Hawass in voicing concern over the looting.

"The Met and the entire museum community worldwide are increasingly concerned about what appear to be ongoing, grievous security breaches at Egypt’s historic sites and archaeological digs," the museum’s director, Thomas P. Campbell, said in a statement Thursday.

"The world cannot sit by and permit unchecked anarchy to jeopardize the cultural heritage of one of the world’s oldest, greatest, and most inspiring civilizations. We echo the voices of all concerned citizens of the globe in imploring Egypt’s new government authorities ... to protect its precious past. Action needs to be taken immediately."


Article from: aolnews.com




Zahi Hawass, National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence, gives a passionate defense of Hosni Mubarak, who, at the time, was days away from stepping down as the President of Egypt. (6 February 2011)

Zahi Hawass interview (BBC)

Video from: YouTube.com





Related Articles
Egypt antiquities chief plans to step down in protest
Egypt asks Berlin to return Nefertiti bust, Germany says "Nein"
Dr Zahi Hawass Appointed to Egypt President Mubarak’s New Cabinet
Egypt Threatens Removal of Ancient Central Park Obelisk


Latest News from our Front Page

People are merging with machines
2014 10 20
Ian Burkhart concentrated hard. A thick cable protruded from the crown of his shaven head. A sleeve sprouting wires enveloped his right arm. The 23 - year-old had been paralysed from the neck down since a diving accident four years ago. But, in June this year, in a crowded room in the Wexner Medical Centre at Ohio State University, Burkhart’s ...
Illegal Aliens Cleared For U.S. Military Service
2014 10 18
The Pentagon announced a new policy allowing illegal immigrants the opportunity to enlist in the armed forces, Thursday. USA Today reports that the new recruitment policies will focus on people with "high-demand skills" like foreign language acumen and health care training: "For the first time, the program — known as Military Accessions in the National Interest, or MAVNI — will ...
Bronze Age Sundial-Moondial Discovered in Russia
2014 10 16
A strange slab of rock discovered in Russia more than 20 years ago appears to be a combination sundial and moondial from the Bronze Age, a new study finds. The slab is marked with round divots arranged in a circle, and an astronomical analysis suggests that these markings coincide with heavenly events, including sunrises and moonrises. The sundial might be "evidence of ...
Humans may only survive 68 days on Mars
2014 10 15
Space enthusiasts planning a move to Mars may have to wait to relocate: conditions on the Red Planet are such that humans would likely begin dying within 68 days, a new study says. Oxygen levels would start to deplete after about two months and scientists said new technologies are required before humans can permanently settle on Mars, according to the study ...
Tom Sunic’s letter to the US Ambassador to Hungary
2014 10 14
October 11, 2014 Mr. André Goodfriend Chargé d’Affaires Embassy of the United States of America Szabadság tér 12 H-1054 Budapest Dear Mr. Goodfriend, As an American citizen I would hereby like to express my concern over the recent decision by the Hungarian government to ban the National Policy Institute (NPI) conference which had been scheduled to take place in Budapest from October 3 to October 5, 2014. ...
More News »