Bungled statue restorations bring Egypt’s great and good down to size

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The Khedive Ismail statue in Ismailia was left looking like a parody after a botched paint job. (Social media)
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A statue of the Egyptian army general, the Martyr Abdel Moneim Riad, was badly damaged while being transported in Port Said. (Social media)
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A depiction of the writer Mahmoud Abbas Al-Akkad was left disfigured after restoration for in Aswan. (Social media)
Updated 24 August 2018

Bungled statue restorations bring Egypt’s great and good down to size

  • In Egypt, a series of representations of the country’s great and good, have become objects of ridicule after local authorities carried out botched restoration work
  • Egyptian Culture Minister Inas Abdel Dayem has formed a committee composed of arts experts to investigate

EGYPT: They are supposed to be symbols of greatness, odes to the successful, musings on the powerful.
A towering bronze cast of a leading thinker or a once great military general hued from marble is designed to stir emotions of respect, national pride or a moment of introspection.
But in Egypt, a series of representations of the country’s great and good, have become objects of ridicule after local authorities carried out botched restoration work.
The bronze statue of Khedive Ismail Pasha, the 19th Century Ottoman ruler of Egypt and Sudan, is the latest to fall foul of cack-handed workmen.
The statue shows the leader, who oversaw a great modernization of the country, standing proudly in his uniform. But the figure has been clumsily painted over in black and white, making the once great Khedive appear more like a character in a B-movie horror picture.
Images of the statue have been widely circulated and ridiculed on social media in Egypt. The statue, located in the city of Ismailia, has also drawn angry comments from the community as well as Egyptian officials.
Egyptian Culture Minister Inas Abdel Dayem has formed a committee composed of arts experts and the national organization of civilization at the Ministry of Culture to investigate what went wrong with the restoration work.
“The ministry stands against all attempts to distort the public statues and will work to restore the statue to its origin,” Abdel-Daeem said.
The Governor of Ismailia, Yassin Tahir, has launched an urgent investigation to find out who was responsible. He stressed that the statue symbolizes the history of Ismailia, and commissioned cultural officials in the province to coordinate with officials of the Ministry of Culture and to restore the statue to its original color and preserve its historical character.
“This statue uses special materials for paint, which we have used since it was erected in 2006, and we use it annually in the maintenance process. However, developers this year used these materials incorrectly,” he said.
The statue is located at the intersection of Al-Thalathini and Mohammed Ali Street and the entrance to Al-Blajat Road. About 7m tall, it stands on a 2m platform.
It is not the first time there has been controversy over the treatment of statues representing Egyptia historical figures in recent years. Last April, there was anger when four statues in Alexandria of Egyptian icons were moved in a rubbish van and a lorry.
One depicted Hassan Al-Iskandarani, known as the Prince of the Sea, another was of Sayed Darwish, the Egyptian musical pioneer, Abdullah Al-Nadim, one of the leaders of the Oraby Revolution in 1881, and Refaa Al-Tahtawi, a famous education reformer.
In another incident, a statue of the Martyr Abdel Moneim Riad, a former general of the Egyptian army, was fractured while being transported in Port Said. An investigation was launched and the governor had to apologize to the general’s family. The district chief responsible at that time lost his job.
The incident took place at a time when parliament was passing a bill to criminalize insults to historical symbols in Egypt, increasing the punishment to up to five years’ imprisonment.
In 2016, former prime minister Sharif Ismail banned the restoration of statues without the consent and cooperation of the Ministry of Culture and Antiquities.
The decision came after a crisis caused by a statue called “Mother of the Martyr” in September 2016 in Sohag, 400km south of Cairo, showing a soldier embracing a woman from behind. It was criticized on social media for showing sexual harassment.
There was also anger in Aswan after restoration work to a figure of the famous writer Abbas Mahmoud Al-Akkad in November 2015 led to its disfigurement.
In Zagazig, the statue of Ahmed Oraby, the historical leader, was widely mocked after officials turned it green during a restoration.
The statue of Rifa’a Al-Tahtawi, an Egyptian scholar, in Tahta in the Sohag governorate, was condemned as unrecognizable by citizens of the city.

Could foreign Daesh suspects be tried in northeast Syria?

Updated 58 min 20 sec ago

Could foreign Daesh suspects be tried in northeast Syria?

  • The Kurdish authorities say they are seriously exploring how to set up an international tribunal

QAMISHLI: Months after the territorial defeat of Daesh, Syria’s Kurds are pushing for an international tribunal to try alleged militants detained in their region.

The Kurds run an autonomous administration in the northeast of Syria, but it is not recognized by Damascus or the international community.

This brings complications for the legal footing of any justice mechanism on the Kurds’ territory, and the international cooperation required to establish one.

With Western nations largely reluctant to repatriate their nationals or judge them at home, could foreign Daesh suspects be put on trial in northeast Syria?

After years of fighting Daesh, Syria’s Kurds hold around 1,000 foreign men in jail, as well as some 12,000 non-Syrian women and children in overcrowded camps.

Almost four months after Kurdish-led forces backed by the US-led coalition seized Daesh’s last scrap of land in eastern Syria, few have been repatriated.

The Kurdish authorities say they are seriously exploring how to set up an international tribunal, and invited foreign experts to discuss the idea at a conference it hosted early this month.

“We will work to set up this tribunal here,” the region’s top foreign affairs official Abdelkarim Omar told AFP afterwards.

“The topic of discussion now is how we will set up this tribunal and what form it will take,” he said.

Daesh in 2014 declared a “caliphate” in large parts of Syria and neighboring Iraq, implementing its brutal rule on millions in an area the size of the UK.

The militants stand accused of a string of crimes including mass killings and rape, and a UN probe is investigating alleged war crimes.

Mahmoud Patel, a South African international law expert invited to the July conference, said any court should include input from victims and survivors.

It should be “established in the region where the offenses happened so that the people themselves can be part of that process,” he said, preferably in northeast Syria because the Kurds do not have the death penalty.

In Iraq, hundreds of people including foreigners have been condemned to death or life in prison.

In recent months, a Baghdad court has handed death sentences to 11 Frenchmen transferred from Syria to Iraq in speedy trials denounced by human rights groups.

Omar, the foreign affairs official, said he hoped for an international tribunal to try suspects “according to local laws after developing them to agree with international law.”

The Kurdish region has judges and courts, including one already trying Syrian Daesh suspects, but needs logistical and legal assistance, he said.

A tribunal would have “local judges and foreign judges, as well as international lawyers” to defend the accused, he said.

Nabil Boudi, a French lawyer representing four Frenchmen and several families held in Syria, said the Kurdish authorities seemed determined.

“They’re already starting to collect evidence,” he said after attending the conference.

“All the people who were detained and jailed had their own phone” and data can be retrieved from them, said the lawyer, who was however unable to see those he represents.

Boudi called for “a serious investigation by an independent examining magistrate ... that should take time and be far less expeditious than in Baghdad.”

Stephen Rapp, prosecutor in the trial of Liberian ex-president Charles Taylor, said the most realistic option to try foreigners in northeast Syria would be a Kurdish court.

It could have “international assistance conditioned on compliance with international law,” he said, including advice from a non-governmental organization specialized in working with non-state actors.