On Wednesday night protesters supporting deposed president Mohamed Morsi broke into the Malawi police station and the town council then entered the neighbouring Malawi National Museum (MNM) and looted some of its contents.
According to a press release sent by the Ministry of State of Antiquities (MSA),there was violence in Minya governorate as part of clashes across Egypt on Wednesday after security forces broke up pro-Morsi sit-ins at Rabaa Al-Adawiya in Nasr City and Al-Nahda Square in Giza. Pro-Morsi protesters invaded the MNM, adjacent to the town’s police station and Malawi council, and declared a sit-in in the museum’s garden. Protesters clashed with guards, breaking down the museum’s gate and succeeded in breaking into its halls, damaging and stealing some of its treasured artefacts. They also broke the MNM’s surveillance cameras and stole some stationary from the museum’s administrative department.
Minister of State of Antiquities Mohamed Ibrahim described the incident as a “great loss as the MNM houses a distinguished collection derived from the Tuna Al-Gebel and Ashmounein sites in Minya, which reflect the life of the ancient Egyptians during the Amarna period and Graeco-Roman era”.
Ibrahim told Al-Ahram Weekly that an archaeological committee is now investigating the incident in order to draw up a list of the missing objects and send it to the prosecutor general to open an investigation.
The list, Ibrahim continued, will be sent to all Egyptian ports to prevent smuggling. International museums, UNESCO and INTERPOL have put the artefacts on their Red List in order to prevent them from being traded.
The MNM gate is currently being fixed.
Despite the incident, Ibrahim decided to open all museums and archaeological sites but would close them two hours earlier than usual, save the MNM which will be closed indefinitely.
Veteran archaeologist Abdel-Halim Noureddin told the Weekly that the MNM is a very distinguished site and denounced the MB and pro-Morsi protesters for breaking into the museum “because as an archaeological expert I can see that chaos is a great opportunity for antique thieves and traders to steal artefacts and smuggle and sell them in international trading market”.
The Archaeologists Syndicate denounced the break-in of the MNM and asked the ministries of interior and defence to protect all archaeological sites, museums and storage facilities around Egypt from any further violations. It also asked archaeologists to set up checkpoints made up of volunteer citizens at the country’s archaeological sites for protection.