Egypt town scraps 'sex harassment' army statue after complaints

#Culture

Local council said statue showed 'a hero's mother with her son' - but critics claimed it was an improper use of public money

The statue is being 'amended' after storm of controversy broke out before its official unveiling (Twitter)
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Monday 5 September 2016 13:04 UTC
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An investigation has been launched into a sculpture meant to represent Egypt after critics claimed it showed a soldier sexually harassing a woman.

The Mother of the Hero statue was erected last week in the small town of el-Beleyna, on the west bank of the River Nile.

The statue, which stood in the town’s Martyrs’ Square, was commissioned to honour the country’s military and represent pride in Egypt.

It showed a helmeted soldier with his arms around a slender young woman, often a symbol used to depict Egypt.

Critics suggested that the statue portrayed an unwanted sexual advance, with many taking to social media to complain.

Translation: If it’s not possible to stamp out sexual harassment on public transport, let’s acknowledge it as part of our heritage and make a statue out of it

Amid fierce criticism from residents of the city and Egyptians across the country, the statue was taken down over the weekend before its official unveiling, and the provincial governor has ordered an investigation into the controversial commission.

On Monday a group of lawyers in the city went further, demanding a criminal investigation into the head of the city’s government, saying the statue scandal wasted 250,000 EGP ($28,150) of public money.

In their complaint, the lawyers said the affair had “cast light” on what they said was endemic wastage of public money on similar projects, pointing to a costly scheme to install solar-powered fake light-up trees to illuminate the city’s streets.

In reference to the statue, the lawyers accused city administrator Adly Abu Aqil of “accusing others in an attempt to shift the blame away from himself,” calling for him to come before a judge to answer questions about the misuse of public money.

The city said in a statement over the weekend that the “necessary amendments” to the statue were being carried out, and would not cost the city any extra money.

The statement said the statue had aimed to represent “the mother of a hero next to her son... As a result of the debate about the statute, it is being changed.”

The artist behind the sculpture, 60-year-old Wagih Hani, has defended the work, telling the Associated Press news agency that the soldier represented the "spirit of the martyr" protecting Egypt.

However, he has agreed to modify the sculpture, taking out the soldier and playing an olive branch in the woman's hands.