09 March 2011

Hawass talks about his resignation

Zahi Hawass, Egypt's former Minister of Antiquities and longtime head of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, resigned on March 3. In an interview posted on his website, he gives two reasons why: the lack of police presence at archaeological sites and political opposition within the ministry. The first makes no sense to me; I suspect the second is quite accurate though: Zahi's enemies within the ministry have taken advantage of the revolutionary moment to try to force him out. His rhetoric about the student protests against him is Gaddafi-esque: my enemies were behind it! I'm still undecided if he was really forced out or left voluntarily in order to strengthen his hand in the long run.

I am leaving because of a variety of important reasons. The first reason is that, during the Revolution of January 25th, the Egyptian Army protected our heritage sites and the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. However, in the last 10 days the army has left these posts because it has other tasks to do... That is why at the meeting of the Egyptian cabinet yesterday I had my speech prepared already and I said: “I cannot stay in Egypt and see antiquities being stolen when I cannot do anything to stop it!” This situation is not for me! I have always fought to return stolen artifacts to Egypt. I did fight Ahmed Ezz as well, the man in the Parliament, who was the most powerful man, because he wanted to allow antiquities to be sold in Egypt again.

The second reason is that there are two crooks in the Antiquities Department, who have accused me of stealing antiquities and doing other illegal things all of the time. Their files talk about this. A third person started saying similar things, a university professor who was the Antiquities Director for almost 6 years before me, who never accomplished anything in that time. As a corrupt man, he even gave his signed permission to a rich lady from another Arabic country to take manuscripts out of Egypt! These three people encouraged young Egyptians to protest against me personally, to shout outside my office that they needed jobs... Because of all of these things, I believe that if I stay in my position for another six months, I will never be able to protect the antiquities I love and I will never be able to work during this mess. All my life, I have been excavating, discovering, writing books and giving lectures all over the world. My work is responsible for bringing many tourists to Egypt, which helps our economy. But now I cannot do this! Therefore, I decided to resign.

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