Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Emergency Import Restrictions on Egyptian Cultural Artifacts; Another Show Trial?

Egyptian Field Marshall Abdul Fattah el-Sissi, the military leader who deposed Muslim Brotherhood President Mohammad Morsi, has announced he's taking off his general's uniform so he too can be elected president.  The move follows the announcement that verdicts are expected soon in mass trials of the deposed president's supporters that have dismayed human right advocates.  They anticipate hundreds of additional defendants to be convicted for their part in unrest in the city of Minya in what is little more than a show trial that mirrors other, similar travesties of justice that have taken place under military rule.

However, there is another show trial taking place not in Egypt, but in America.  The location is not a courtroom, but in the media, where connected academic insiders have been given a platform to expound on their views that "global connoisseurs" are in league with "cultural racketeers" responsible for looting in the country and damage to the Malawi Museum at Minya.  The truth, on the other hand,   appears to little to do with such shadowy figures and a lot to do with the same discontent that led to rioting and today's show trials of Minya's citizens.

And what will be the results of our own media "show trial" if American collectors and the trade don't act forcefully to get out "the other side of the story?"   At a minimum, they will be expected to pay the price for Egypt's own problems through bans on the import of common archaeological objects of the sort widely and legally collected at least since the 19th century.  And the ultimate result could be much, much worse.

Addendum (3/27/14):  Avaaz has put up this petition asking that the death sentences of  previously convicted Minya rioters be commuted.  That petition is made available here for anyone who wishes to sign it.

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