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

Cyclopean Masonry: A Mystery of the Ancient World
2014 04 16
They don’t make things like they used to, and that is, in some cases, a monumental understatement. Silly wordplay notwithstanding, there is something to be said for the construction techniques of the old world. Where modern buildings are designed to withstand the elements; wind, temperature extremes, earthquakes and floods, today’s engineers have to strike a balance between economics ...
Megalithic Origins : Ancient connections between Göbekli Tepe and Peru
2014 04 16
At 6,500 years older than Stonehenge and 7,000 years before the pyramids were constructed, a cult megalithic complex sat atop the hills near current day Sanliurfa, in southeast Turkey. Göbekli Tepe was flourishing an astonishing 12,000 - 14,000 years ago, and today, the preserved remains still exhibits high degrees of sophistication and megalithic engineering skill. Back in the 1990’s when ...
Department of Transportation Uses LRAD Sound Cannons Against Drivers
2014 04 16
The Missouri Department of Transportation revealed two newly acquired LRAD sound cannons this week, which will reportedly be used to target vehicles that speed in work zones. Coming in at $25,000 a piece, the Long-Range Acoustic Device, a sonic weapon best know for its use against protesters and insurgents in Afghanistan, will alert drivers to road conditions by shooting a loud ...
An ’Unknown Holocaust’ and the Hijacking of History
2014 04 16
An address by Mark Weber, director of the Institute for Historical Review, delivered at an IHR meeting in Orange County, California, on July 25, 2009. (A report on the meeting is posted here.) We hear a lot about terrible crimes committed by Germans during World War II, but we hear very little about crimes committed against Germans. Germany’s defeat in May ...
Ex-Mayor Bloomberg Starting $50 Million Gun-Control Network
2014 04 16
Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg ramped up his efforts to fight gun violence on Wednesday with a plan to spend $50 million on a grassroots network to organize voters on gun control. The initiative’s political target is the powerful pro-gun lobby, including the National Rifle Association, that spends millions of dollars each year to back gun-rights supporters. Bloomberg’s group, called Everytown ...
More News »