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19 Sep, 2013

UNESCO DG deplores looting of museums, damage to cultural heritage in Egypt


Paris, UNESCOPRESS- The Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, has expressed grave concern for Egypt’s cultural heritage following the reported looting of the Malawi National Museum in the Upper Egypt city of Minya, and the destruction of several monuments of religious importance, including churches and mosques, in Upper Egypt, Fayoum and Cairo.

“I firmly condemn the attacks against the cultural institutions of the country and the looting of its cultural property,” said Irina Bokova. “This constitutes irreversible damage to the history and identity of the Egyptian people.”

Facebook/Egypt’s Heritage Task Force – The Malawi National Museum after it was looted

The Director-General urged the Egyptian authorities to ensure the protection and integrity of museums, sites and historical buildings, including those of religious importance.

Irina Bokova also appealed to the Egyptian authorities to prevent the trafficking of cultural objects stolen from the Malawi National Museum. She reiterated UNESCO’s readiness to provide technical support for this and to mobilize the partner organizations of the 1970 Convention against Illicit Traffic of Cultural Heritage, including ICOM, ICOMOS, INTERPOL, and the World Customs Organization.

“Egypt’s exceptional cultural heritage is not only an inheritance of the past, reflecting its rich and diverse history; it is also a legacy for future generations and its destruction seriously weakens the foundations of Egyptian society,” said Irina Bokova.

A mission of UNESCO experts to Egypt from 11 to 16 September has confirmed that nearly all the collections of the Mallawi National Museum in Minya, Upper Egypt, were looted during unrest in August.

The mission organized with the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities and local authorities found that while the buildings were not badly damaged, 600 of the Museum’s collection of 1080 artefacts were missing.

The International Expert and UNESCO Consultant Architect Pierre-André Lablaude and a UNESCO expert also visited other cultural sites damaged during recent unrest, notably three historically significant churches: the Evangelical Church in Minya; Amir Tadros Monastery in Fayoum; and the Franciscan Sisters School in Beni Suef.

Some other significant churches could not be visited for security reasons. Members of the mission met Egypt’s Minister of Antiquities, Prof. Dr Mohamed Ibrahim, Dr Ahmed Sharaf Head of the Museums Department, as well as other senior officials in charge of cultural heritage.

Several other sites and museums were visited by the experts at the request of the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities and the Ministry of Culture, notably the belle époque Casdagli Villa in Cairo, which was found to be sound despite superficial damage in February 2013.