Minister of Culture Alaa Abdel Aziz accepted the resignation of the ministry’s head of the Foreign Cultural Relations Department Camelia Sobhi on Tuesday.
A string of leadership reshuffles has been taking over the ministry since the appointment of Abdel Aziz as the ministry’s head.
Abel Aziz replaced Sobhi with Eman Negm, head of the Central Administration for Cultural Agreements and Programmes, as the interim head of the Foreign Cultural Relations Department.
Sobhi had submitted her resignation on Monday, reported state-owned news agency MENA. The resignation came in response to what she called unclear policies being adopted by Abdel Aziz to end the mandate of a number of cultural leaders without clearly-stated reasons; MENA cited an informed source within the ministry as saying.
Sobhi’s resignation follows that of Saeed Tawfiq, the secretary general of the Supreme Cultural Council. Tawfiq resigned from his post last Wednesday due to disagreements with Abdel Aziz.
The Egyptian Creativity Front announced it will hold a meeting on Wednesday at the Supreme Cultural Council’s headquarters to elect a new secretary general for the council through an emergency general assembly. The assembly would include representatives from all cultural and artistic sectors, as well as representatives of cultural organisations and unions.
The front stated the meeting would also be held to officially declare Abdel Aziz as illegitimate, stripping him of any authority over the Supreme Cultural Council.
The new minister of culture has been under fire since removing former head of the Cairo Opera House Ines Abdel Dayem from her post last week and appointing Badr El-Zaqazeeqi to take her place.
Artists began protesting on Thursday, following the removal of both Abdel Dayem and Salah El-Meligy, head of the Applied Arts Department at the ministry.
The Cairo Opera house met the removal of its head with a strike which started last Wednesday. Artists announced their concerns that Abdel Aziz is spreading Muslim Brotherhood ideologies by removing high-ranking officials.
The strike was suspended on Monday, said Dina Serag, the opera house’s foreign press official. Serag stated that performances have returned in full.
Mona Wassef, a harpist at the Cairo Opera House who had joined the protests, denied that all shows are back. “The foreign artists are going forward with their performances,” Wassef said. “But most Egyptian artists are still on strike.”
Wassef stated that for the artists, the matter is not regarding any leadership reshuffle. “We are not happy with Abdel Aziz’s decisions in general. They are all random and arbitrary.”
She claimed that Abdel Aziz follows the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood, instead of protecting cultural arts and traditions as he had stated before. “We do not want a Brotherhood-affiliated minister of culture.”
In an official statement posted on the ministry’s website, Abdel Aziz vowed to support culture regardless of the attacks he faces. He asked those leading a “defamation campaign” against him what they have added to culture and audiences.
“Those who resort to the Middle Ages, using political Islamism as a scarecrow, act like puppets controlled by those whose interests conflict with that of Egypt’s culture,” Abdel Aziz said. He added that those who accuse him of “sacking” and “destroying” are secretly preserving the interests of some intellectuals who belong to the former regime.
“We want to breathe a new spirit into culture,” the minister said, justifying his decisions. “We are not at war with arts and culture; we support them fully… In short, we are fighting the wasting of public money under the name of arts and culture.”
Artists in Cairo began the Egyptian Egypt- Revolt of the Minds campaign on 14 May to demand the removal of Abdel Aziz.