UNESCO chief deplores damage to cultural heritage sites in Egypt

posted in: Africa

Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation Ms. Irina Bokova


New York, US – The Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), Ms. Irina Bokova on Monday expressed grave concern for Egypt’s cultural heritage following reports that a national museum in the city of Minya had been looted and that several monuments of religious importance in Fayoum and the capital, Cairo, had been destroyed.

“I firmly condemn the attacks against the cultural institutions of the country and the looting of its cultural property,” Ms. Bokova said.

She stated that this constituted irreversible damage to the history and identity of the Egyptian people.

Ms. Bokova urged Egyptian authorities to ensure the protection and integrity of museums, sites and historical buildings, including those of religious importance.

She also appealed to the Egyptian authorities to prevent the trafficking of cultural objects stolen from the Malawi National Museum.

She said Egypt’s exceptional cultural heritage was not only an inheritance of the past, reflecting its rich and diverse history, but also a legacy for future generations and its destruction seriously weakened the foundations of Egyptian society.

She also reiterated the agency’s readiness to provide technical support and mobilize the partner organisations of the 1970 Convention against Illicit Traffic of Cultural Heritage, including the International Police Organisation (INTERPOL) and the World Customs Organisation (WCO).

On Sunday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called the attacks on mosques and churches in the violence that has engulfed the country “unacceptable” and appealed to the authorities to contain violence and revive the political process immediately.

More than 800 people, mainly supporters of ousted president Mohammed Morsi have died since last Wednesday in confrontations with security forces.

Thousands of Egyptains, who are against the overthrow of Morsi by the military on 3 July, are back on the streets in several areas on Monday night defying the state of emergency imposed by the interim government and setting the stage for more clashed.

They are protesting Sunday’s deaths of 36 protesters who were being transported to another prison. They say they were murdered by the security forces.

The interim government has accused protesters of looting museums.