May 28, 2023

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Egypt: Protests over removal of graves of public and historical figures to “build bridges”… and calls for parliamentary explanation

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (CNN) — Protests have been renewed in Egypt against the removal of graves of public and historical figures in the Khalifa neighborhood, south of the capital Cairo, under the guise of public interest. While MPs have made explanatory demands to stop demolishing cemeteries and developing them as tourist attractions.

The demolished tombs are linked to the names of many public figures and celebrities, such as the former sheikh of al-Azhar, Muhammad Mustafa al-Maraki, the poet and politician Mahmoud Sami al-Baroudi and the dean of the Arabic language. literature, the writer Taha Husayn, as well as the tombs of many princes and Mamluks.

Al-Khalifa neighborhood contains several tombs, known as the tombs of Imam al-Shafi’i and al-Laithi. The Cairo Governorate previously issued a decision to remove 2,700 graves and move them to new locations in the city on May 15 and 10 of Ramadan, and notified families to move the remains of the dead. The area, after evacuation, will be used for the widening of Sala Salem Road and the construction of a traffic bridge, according to official government reports.

Sherin Tahsin, the granddaughter of the late cleric Muhammad Mustafa al-Maraki, one of al-Azhar’s sheikhs, said the family received a decision from the Cairo governorate to take away the ownership of her grandfather’s tomb and move it to the tenth. The Ramadan area – east of the capital, Cairo – explains that the family is not opposed to this for the public good, achieving the common good, but is considered one of the symbols of his late grandfather al-Azhar al-Sharif. , and was one of the successors to the shekhdom of Al-Azhar, and he had many contributions to the development of the religious institution.

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Al-Maraki accepted the shaykhtop of al-Azhar al-Sharif twice; The first from 1928 until his resignation in 1930 and the second from 1935 until his death in 1945.

In exclusive statements to CNN in Arabic, al-Maraki’s granddaughter confirmed that the late sheikh’s family had not accepted any alternative solution to moving their grandfather’s tomb and called for the government’s decision to remove it to be overturned. History and Contributions of Al-Maraki.

Tahsin added that the family is waiting for the government’s response to appeals to stop the decision to remove the tomb, and if the decision is actually implemented, Al-Maraki’s remains will be moved to his hometown in Maraqah Center. Sohaq Governorate instead of 10th of Ramadan city, alternative proposed by Govt.

The Egyptian government says it is taking steps to “develop” the historic Cairo area with the aim of restoring the civilized face of the capital. Its plan includes upgradation of historical and heritage areas, improvement of road network, provision of parking areas to achieve traffic flow, removal of slums and relocation of residents to alternative residences.

For his part, Maha Abdel Nasser, a member of the House of Representatives and vice president of the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, objected to the removal of civilian graves and said he was preparing to submit a request for a new interpretation to parliament. Historical figures, the last of whom was Mahmoud Sami al-Barudi, poet, minister of war and prime minister of Egypt in 1882, sought a different vision from the government, with the aim of preserving heritage and historical tombs. To achieve the development of the area and at the same time protect the cemeteries.

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The Cairo Governorate previously issued official statements denying the removal of the tombs of Sheikh Muhammad Rifad and the late author Taha Hussein, despite their families confirming that they received removal orders, as did the owners of other tombs in the Khalifa neighborhood.

Abdel Nasser added in exclusive reports to CNN in Arabic that the remains of public figures and great writers, including novelist Yahya Haqi, have already been moved, and now the graves of Taha Husayn, al-Barudi and poet Hafez. Ibrahim faces the same fate as quick intervention is needed to achieve the public good by widening roads. He also pointed out that the re-planning of Cairo, which is considered a masterpiece of architecture and heritage, without removing tombs in historic Cairo, has responded by stopping the removal of Taha Husayn and Hafiz Ibrahim’s tomb to achieve public good. Alternatives include preserving the cemeteries, and using them as a historical shrine after developing the area, and turning it into a tourist destination.