Trouble for Artists in Egypt

by Erin B Mee

in Activism,Global Citizenship

The Egyptian government is targeting artists, intellectuals, and journalists. To learn more, please contact the U.S. State Department to register your concern.

To add your name to the letter below, which has been sent to The New York Times, The Guardian, and Democracy Now, email Erin B. Mee.

On 5 June, The Guardian ran an article about the Cairo Opera House, whose members refused to perform after their artistic director had been fired. Conductor Nayer Nagi said: “In a stand against a detailed plan to destroy culture and fine arts in Egypt we abstain from performing tonight’s opera.” Alaa Abdel-Aziz was appointed Minister of Culture four weeks ago, and in that time he has fired the head of the Cairo Opera House, the head of the Egyptian General Book Authority, and the head of the Fine Arts Sector.

The assaults on artists continue: Isam El-‘Iryan, a leading figure in the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party has branded a number of journalists, artists, and intellectuals “pro-Western atheists and secularists who have betrayed the religious creed of the Egyptian people,” (Al-Akhbar Daily, 7 June 2013, p. 2) and the same accusation was made at noon on Friday 7 June from the pulpit of a mosque in Madinet Nasr, Cairo. A respected journalist in Cairo said in an email to us that “this is a dangerous turn of events: such accusations can be understood by militant Islamists as a fatwa to kill ‘those infidels’ with impunity, thus virtually sanctioning the killing of artists and intellectuals.”

We call on Egyptian Ministry of Culture’s Alaa Abdel-Aziz to protect rather than condemn the contributions artists have made to a diverse, cosmopolitan, multi-ethnic, and multi-religious society, and to refrain from defining “Egyptian culture” in the narrowest terms.


James C. Nicola, Artistic Director, New York Theatre Workshop

Oskar Eustis, Artistic Director, The Joseph Papp Public Theatre

Erin B. Mee, Assistant Professor/Faculty Fellow, New York University

Naomi Wallace, playwright

Richard Schechner, University Professor, New York University

Anne Bogart, Artistic Director, SITI Company

Diana Taylor, University Professor, Director Hemispheric Institute, New York University

J. J. El-Far, Arts Program Coordinator, British Council

Edward Ziter, Associate Professor, New York University

Iman Aoun, Artistic Director, Ashtar Theatre, Palestine

Mariellen R. Sandford, Associate Editor, TDR: The Drama Review

Natalia Kaliada, Co-Founder and Artistic Director, Belarus Free Theatre

Nicolai Khalezin, Co-Founder and Artistic Director, Belarus Free Theatre

Vladimir Shcherban, Associate Director, Belarus Free Theatre

Yuri Kaliada, International Coordinator, Belarus Free Theatre

Shahid Nadeem, Executive Director, Ajoka Theatre, Pakistan

Madeeha Gauhar, Artistic Director, Ajoka Theatre, Pakistan

Abdelfattah Abusrour, President, Palestinian Theatre League, Director, Alrowwad Cultural and Theatre Society

Lameece Issaq, Artistic Director, Noor Theatre

Lawrence Eilenberg, Professor and Chair, Theatre Arts Department, San Francisco State University

Shanker Satyanath, Associate Professor, New York University

Catherine Coray, Associate arts Professor, New York University

Roberta Levitow

Ismail Khalidi, playwright

Erwin Maas, director of theatre and opera

Mahesh Dattani, playwright, Mumbai

Mona Mansour, playwright

Tracy Francis, Artistic Director, Hybrid Theatre Works

Chantal Bilodeau, playwright and translator

Ted Sod, Actor, Director, Dramaturg, Roundabout Theatre Company

Motti Lerner, playwright

Linda Chapman, Associate Artistic Director, New York Theatre Workshop

John Eisner

Lisa Rothe, Director of Offsite Programs and Partnerships, Lark Play Development Ctr

Olivier Kemeid, playwright and director, Montreal, Canada

Lisa Schlesinger, playwright

Helene Foley, Professor, Barnard College, Columbia University

Ron Jenkins, Professor of Theatre, Wesleyan University

Constancia Dinky Romilly, Friends of the Jenin Freedom Theatre

Marvin Carlson, Professor, Theatre Program, Graduate Center, CUNY

Shahid Nadeem, Executive Director, Ajoka Theatre, Pakistan

Madeeha Gauhar, Artistic Director, Ajoka Theatre, Pakistan

Erick Neher

Steven Nedboy, artist

Imad Ftouni, writer/producer

Kim Weild, director

Daniel Jiminez, actor

Robert Woodruff, director

William Beeman, Professor, Universtity of Minnesota

Valerie McCann, International Theatre Collaborator

Mary Ann DeVlieg, freeDimensional Theatre

Leila Buck, playwright and actor

Jonathan Meth, The Fence, International Translation Network

Joan MacIntosh, Actress and Associate Professor, Yale University

Edith Hall, Professor of Classics, King’s College, London

Peter Eckersall, School of Culture and Communication, University of Melbourne

John Emigh, Professor Emeritus, Brown University

Simon Williams, Professor of Theatre, UCSD

Maha Chehloui, Executive Director, Noor Theatre

T. Nikki Cesare Schotzko, Assistant Professor, University of Toronto

Gabrielle H. Cody, Professor of Drama, Vassar College

Kia Corthron, playwright

Lawrence Senelick, Fletcher Professor of Drama and Oratory, Tufts University

Vincent William Cooper

Cobina Gillitt, Undergraduate Drama, New York University

Maya Zbib, Zoukak Theater Company, Lebanon

Shen Jiayi, East China Normal University, Shanghai

Omar Koury

Todd London, Artistic Director, New Dramatists

August Schulenburg, Artistic Director, Flux Theatre Ensemble

Jody Leshinsky, Community Development Director, Broward Cultural Division

Phillip Zarrilli, Artistic Director, The Llanarth Group

Richard Warren, playwright

J.D. Menon, playwright and director, Malaysia

Sanjib Baruah, Professor of Politial Studies, Bard College

Adam Nathaniel Versenyi, Professor of Dramatic Art and Dramaturg, Playmakers Repertory Company

Nan van Houte, International Network for Contemporary Performing Arts

Eric Wainaina, songwriter, Nairobi

Jessica Litwak, playwright

Fawzia Afzal-Khan, University Distinguised Scholar and Professor of English, Montclair State University

Jen Marlowe, filmmaker

Moira Fradinger, Comparative Literature Department, Yale University

Roberto Gutierrez, Associate Professor, University of San Francisco

David Diamond, Theatre Without Borders

Dr. Waleed Shamil, Assistant Professor of Drama and Theatre, Baghdad University

Sturgis Warner, director

Ali Pour Issa, Artistic Director, Tehran

Chandra Shekhar Dubey, poet, writer, SBSEC, University of Delhi

Aysan Celik, Artistic Associate, Theatre Mitu

Padma R. Kanani

Bharati Shankaran, writer

Jamil Khoury, Founding Artistic Director, Silk Road Rising

Jennifer Williams, opera director

Elaine Avila, playwright

Laurie McCants, Ensemble Member, Bloomburg Theatre Ensemble

Melissa Moschitto, Artistic Director, The Anthropologists

Pia Haddad, Artistic Director, Third Kulture Kids

Gopan Chithambaran, Department of Theatre, Kalady, Kerala, India

Karen Kandel, theatre artist

Erin B. Mee has directed productions at New York Theatre Workshop, the Joseph Papp Public Theatre, the Magic Theatre in San Francisco, the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, HERE, and The Ontological at St. Mark’s. In addition, she has directed two productions in India with Sopanam, one of India’s leading theatre companies.  She is the author of Theatre of Roots: Redirecting the Modern Indian Stage (2009), co-editor of Antigone on the Contemporary World Stage (2011), and editor of DramaContemporary: India (2001). She teaches Dramatic Literature at NYU.