ISSN 2330-717X

Egypt: Where They Have Burned Books – OpEd


By Adham Hafez

Set on fire on 17 December, the Egyptian Scientific Institute was another casualty of the clashes between the military and protestors in Cairo. Lillian Boctor speaks to artist Adham Hafez [MP3 – 7.8MB], one of the volunteers working to save books and manuscripts from the damaged building.

On 16 December 2011, Egyptian military forces violently attacked the three-week sit-in at the Cabinet building in Cairo. The protesters were demanding that the military ruling council hand over power to civilians.

Military police and central security forces continued to brutally attack, kidnap, kill, detain and torture protesters at Tahrir and in the surrounding downtown Cairo area, as well as systematically sexually assault and beat women. L’Institut d’Egypte, or the Egyptian Scientific Institute, was set on fire on Saturday morning, 17 December 2011.

L’Institute d’Egypte was a research centre created by Napoleon Bonaparte during the 18th century French Invasion of Egypt. It was home to thousands of rare books and manuscripts, including Napoleon’s historic ‘Description de l’Egypte.’ Protesters and volunteers have been working non-stop to try and salvage the manuscripts and books.

The building is severely damaged and is located at the frontline of the clashes between military and security forces and protesters. The books, manuscripts and documents are being brought to the National Library and Archives of Egypt (Dar el Kutuub wa Dar el Wathaiq) in the ongoing effort to try and save them.

Adham Hafez is an artist working in the field of contemporary dance and music and the director of HaRaKa dance development and research. He is part of a volunteer committee working to save the books and manuscripts from the burnt Egyptian Scientific Institute. He also coordinated the Tahrir field hospitals in the November uprising.

Lillian Boctor spoke to him [MP3 – 7.8MB] on 19 December 2011, by phone from Cairo, while he was in front of the National Library and Archives of Egypt.

Follow Adham Hafez on Twitter @adhamhafez
Hastag: #savebooks

Lillian Boctor is a freelance journalist based in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. She is a reporter for Free Speech Radio News and has worked as a journalist, associate producer and researcher at the Canadian Broadcast Corporation (CBC) and Radio Canada International (RCI).

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