Dozens of prominent Egyptian artists and writers are holding an open-ended sit-in in the office of “Minister of Culture” Alaa Abdel-Aziz. They are there, they say, until the minister is replaced:

Photo credit: Mohammad Abla.
Protesters include Sonallah Ibrahim and Bahaa Taher. Photo credit: Mohammad Abla.

The protesters’ central demand is that: the removal of Abdel-Aziz from his post.

About an hour ago, according to @AhramOnlineArts:

#Artists just announced that the issue has been given to a special committee in the presidency and a decision will be made in 4 hours #egypt

Note that: Four hours and many more have passed with no movement from the government.

Abdel-Aziz has only held his current post for about a month. In that short space, he has managed to create enemies of a record number of artists, poets, novelists, dancers, musicians, filmmakers, and others. The little-known but regime-friendly Abdel-Aziz was appointed on May 6, and he sparked several small protests in his first weeks, including the egging of his car.

This didn’t stop Abdel-Aziz from implementing his new “vision.” Within his first week, he’d fired¬†Ahmed Megahed, the head of the General Egyptian Book Organisation (GEBO). But it wasn’t until¬†May 28 that things really got hot. That’s when Abdel-Aziz fired the heads of Cairo Opera House and Fine Arts Sector.

Opera House staff held an on-stage protest instead of performing Aida, and several figures, such as Supreme Council for Culture head Saeed Tawfiq and novelist Bahaa Taher, resigned from their posts.

On June 1, the Cairo Symphony Orchestra was scheduled to perform with pianist Ramzi Yassa. However, the artists announced a continuation of their strike. On June 2, protesting artists surrounded the front and back exits of the ministry, keeping Abdel-Aziz trapped inside the building until 7:30pm.

Then, on Wednesday, dozens of artists, writers, and musicians “broke in” to the culture ministry to begin an open-ended sit-in. A statement released by the group, according to¬†Ahram Online,¬†reads:

The intellectuals, writers and artists inside the ministry announce their rejection of the minister, appointed by the religious fascist regime, who has embarked on his plan to destroy national culture.

They [protesting artists] declare that they will not accept the presence of a minister that does not fulfil the aspirations of intellectuals to cultivate a culture that lives up to the hopes of the great revolution since it started on 25 January 2011 and achieves its goals.

Artist Mohamed Abla has been posting photos of the sit-in on Facebook. You are invited to join him there.

More from: Daily News Egypt, Ahram Online, Shorouk. Also, @AhramOnlineArts is tweeting updates from the sit-in. Looks and sounds like fun.

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