Egypt’s Minister of Culture Merry-go-round

After 25 years of Farouk Hosni, Egypt had less than a fortnight of its latest Minister of Culture, Gaber Asfour.

Asfour submitted his resignation to Prime Minister Ahmed Shafik yesterday, according to various news sources.

Asfour  has told media that he resigned for “health reasons,” and he certainly suffered from complications from diabetes as well as other ailments. However, it’s widely believed that Egypt’s one-time General Secretary of the Supreme Council of Culture gave up the post following disapproval and pressure from writers and academics.

Prominent authors Ibrahim Aslan and Ibrahim Abdel Meguid, according to Al Ahram, have applauded what Aslan called Asfour’s “courageous” action. However, poet Abdel Moneim Ramadan—surely speaking for many others—said he was still waiting on Asfour for an apology.

Al Sharq Al Awsat reported cryptically that Asfour’s resignation letter contained other reasons for his resignation, but that they would be revealed at a later time.

Last week, following Asfour’s appointment, Elliott Colla wrote in Jadaliyya about the role of the Ministry of Culture in the regime, and particularly of Asfour’s “taming” as an intellectual.

Colla wrote:

When Gaber Asfour accepted the Muammar Qaddafi Prize for Literature in January 2010, it raised a storm of outrage across the Arab world—but little surprise. On Friday, when he accepted the post of Minister of Culture it was only the latest, perhaps last, stage on his journey into the dark heart of the authoritarian state. Again, the literary world of Egypt was livid about Asfour’s betrayal, but few were deeply surprised.

Thus far, although there have been rumors about a successor to Asfour, none has been named.

Update from Ahram Online:

During his short conversation with Ahram Online, Asfour prefered not to give any further details related to his resignation, adding that everything will become more clear through the articles he will write in the near future.

Asfour underscored that he is with the revolution and believes that it is “an awakening and it is certainly the opening of the new era.”

“The change is inevitable, and it is coming sooner or later, and the government needs to understand the situation fast or they will be destroyed by the revolution,” Asfour commented.

More about state culture:

Over at the Arabophile, poet/journalist Youssef Rakha writes about his relationship to the Jan. 25 and Jan. 28 protests, and also briefly discusses his role with the state cultural apparatus, namely his 12 years with the government-owned Al Ahram newspaper. Clearly, he has thrown in his lot with liberation and the future:

As a writer, as a journalist, Friday 28 January has given me back my public voice. It has confirmed to me the existence of a homeland and a people of which I am part. All I ask of the security apparatus at this point is that, if they are going to bomb us with tear-gas, they should at least use tear-gas that is not older than the expiry date inscribed on the cannisters.