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.


Turkish, Iranian media outlets exchange blows on Syria

A Syrian woman carrying a child walks by, in the Washukanni Camp for the internally displaced, near the predominantly Kurdish city of Hasakeh in northeastern Syria, on February 17, 2020. (AFP)
Updated 6 min 28 sec ago

Turkish, Iranian media outlets exchange blows on Syria

  • Middle East expert believes Ankara and Tehran are locked in an information war

ANKARA: Turkish and Iranian media outlets are battling as deeply rooted tensions have resurfaced. Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency has published an opinion piece that critically discussed tensions with Iran over Syria. It said: “Turkey’s vision of regional development and integration is pitched against Iran’s regional strategy prioritising geopolitical wins.
“Ignoring Ankara’s concerns in the fight against terrorism during Operation Peace Spring, Tehran is now setting its Shiite militias in the field in motion against Turkey, who is actively endeavoring to prevent a humanitarian crisis.”
The analysis piece, titled “Idlib front, Iran’s weakening foreign operation capacity,” was penned by Hadi Khodabandeh Loui, a researcher at the Iran Research Center in Ankara.
Throughout Syria’s civil war, Turkey has backed rebels looking to oust Bashar Assad, while Iran has supported the Assad regime. However, the two countries are collaborating to reach a political solution to the conflict.
An editorial piece that was published in Iran’s hardline newspaper Entekhab compared Turkey’s military moves in Syria to Israel’s bombings of pro-Assad forces. The piece warned Ankara about a potential aggressive reaction from Tehran to both threats.
Israeli warplanes fired missiles at targets near Syria’s capital, Damascus, in early February and they hit Syrian Army and Iran-backed militia positions, reportedly killing 23 people.
Being among the guarantor states of the Astana peace process for Syria, aimed at ending the Syrian conflict, Turkey and Iran have already witnessed the fragility of their relations in October 2019 when Iran criticized Turkey’s moves to establish military posts inside Syria, emphasizing the need to respect the integrity of Syria.
Then, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan quickly accused Iran of betraying the consensus between the two countries following Tehran’s condemnation of Turkey’s operation in northern Syria against the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia.

BACKGROUND

Throughout Syria’s civil war, Turkey has backed rebels looking to oust Bashar Assad, while Iran has supported the Assad regime. However, the two countries are collaborating to reach a political solution to the conflict.

In March 2018, Iran’s Tehran Times defined Turkey’s cross-border military operation against the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia in Afrin as an “invasion.” It splashed with a headline that read: “Turkish troops occupy Syria’s Afrin.”
Over recent weeks, Ankara has voiced criticisms that the Assad regime, Iran-backed militia and Russia have violated the ceasefire in Syria’s rebel-held province of Idlib, with frequent attacks targeting Turkish troops.
Samuel Ramani, a Middle East analyst at the University of Oxford, thinks that Assad’s forces are winning decisively, and Turkey’s ability to resist them is greatly diminished.
“Assad’s forces have consolidated their control over west Aleppo, and are steadily advancing in Idlib. Turkey does not view the Iranian mediation offers in Syria as credible, especially as Iranian media outlets are justifying them by claiming that Turkey broke the terms of the Sochi agreement by harboring extremists. Turkey is insistent that Russia violated Sochi by supporting Assad’s offensive,” he told Arab News.
Regarding the media conflict, Ramani thinks that Turkey and Iran are locked in an information war over Syria, and are both trying to paint the other as an aggressor.
“It’s a way to rally public support in both countries around more confrontational posturing, in the event of a bigger military escalation that actually sees Turkish and Iranian forces in direct combat, not just Assad and Turkish proxies,” he said.