An urgent action and appeal raised by more than 300 architects, heritage experts, thinkers, political and public figures, to stop the demolition of Historic Cairo Cemeteries

Hundreds of those who are responsible and interested in protecting Egyptian heritage, together with associations, bodies, parties, public figures, politicians, thinkers, architects, heritage experts, and representatives from the owners of Historic Cairo Cemeteries, call upon the responsible authorities, all powers and those who have Conscientiousness to stop the series of transgression on Historic Cairo Cemeteries Region and violation of the Egyptian History, demanding that those responsible for the crime of destroying this unique heritage region be held accountable.

In a joint statement, those people who published their solidarity, declared their intention to file a report to the General Prosecution against the Ministers of Tourism and Antiquities, and Awqaf, Cairo Governor with their personalities and capacities, together with those who are responsible for cultural coordination and the participating Authorities in the removal and demolition action, demanding the necessary judicial receivership be imposed to prevent the elimination and destruction of more historic buildings, together with what they contain of rare artifacts, in addition to withdrawing all demolition equipment, and the assessment of the damages occurred in this region. ‏

The statement’s signatories added that they will later announce a number of steps and measures to counter this action, while they still hope that their demands find conscious ears that are capable of listening to the voice of specialists and holding those responsible for the destruction of our heritage accountable in order to preserve our capabilities and fortunes of this nation and its history.

The signatories affirmed that Historic Cairo Cemeteries Region which is registered on the Lists of World Heritage Sites, is protected by international and local laws, and it acquired its value by those figures who were buried from Egypt’s successive generations with all classes and categories who contributed in Egypt’s cultural and civilizational renaissance, starting with Prophet Mohamed’s first Companions, may God be pleased with them, Pious worshipers of Allah who enjoy an elevated degree of faith that exceeds that of the common people, several rulers, politicians, artists, authors, poets, and thousands of struggling Egyptians. Moreover, this region contains unique architectural treasures of great diversity that expresses eras of the development of funerary architecture extending from Ancient Egypt to the present day. Now, this Historic Region faces the largest process of destruction in its history. ‏

The statement indicated that solutions and alternatives instead of demolition were presented by a committee formed by the Cabinet from specialists in urban planning and heritage preservation. The Committee prepared a study on the feasibility of the project of traffic roads that passes-through Cemeteries which its implementation started in 2020. The study refuted the project technically, and proved its traffic and economic infeasibility.

Moreover, the Committee presented alternatives which depend on taking advantage of the current and modern road network, and approved their efficiency for the next ten years, without destroying Historic Cemeteries, together with putting a vision to take advantage of this Historic Site for religious and cultural tourism, as well as solving the problem of rising ground water levels in the region. However, after submitting this proposal, we were surprised by the resumption of demolition, unabated and with greater intensity than before, as if there was a race against time to erase part of the nation’s history, memory, and heritage, in addition to the subjugation of Egyptians by digging up their graves, insulting the remains of their relatives, and separating hem.

The signatories stressed that they appealed to the responsible authorities to retreat from the destructive road network project and they resorted to State Council which rejected considering the urgent matters in their judicial lawsuit to stop the demolition actions in this Region. Furthermore, they had sent dozens of complaints and demands to no avail.

The signatories of the statement included 11 associations, bodies, parties, 16 members of the Initiative to Save Cairo’s Historic Cemeteries, 80 thinkers and politicians, including former and current ministers, ambassadors and diplomats, 12 heritage experts, 48 architects and engineers, 135 public figures, and 36 representatives of the affected cemetery owners.

The lawyers of the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights were surprised by setting the date of the adjudication issued by the 4th Circuit of the Administrative Court in the State Council, regarding Lawsuit No. 54318 of Judicial Year No.77, on halting the implementation of the negative decision by the rejection of providing necessary protection for cemeteries and archaeological building with distinguished architectural heritage located in Historic Cairo Cemeteries Region and defining a campus for these antiquities, to issue its ruling to rule in the session of September 21, 2023, without notifying the plaintiffs of the receipt of the report of the State Commissioners Authority and setting a session before the court, and without enabling them to view the report.

The decision surprised the Center’s lawyers, given that its violation to the State Council’s Law, especially Article No.30 which stipulates that the court clerk’s office is obligated to inform the concerned parties of the date of the session, which did not happen in this case.

The Center’s lawyers, in their capacity as attorneys of the plaintiffs, had filed the aforementioned lawsuit, including an urgent matter which indicates that according to the current system in effect within the schedule of the Administrative Judiciary Court – we do not get sessions to consider the urgent matter at the time of filing the lawsuit. In addition, we have to wait the file to be presented by the secretary of the Court’s Circuit to the Court in order to set a schedule for a session to consider the urgent matters.

By following up the procedure, the Secretary of the 4th Circuit “urgent and subject” notified the Center’s lawyers verbally that the Court rejected considering the urgent matters and decided to refer it to the Board of Commissioners for consideration.

According to the aforementioned, the Center’s lawyers went to follow up on the scheduled date of the case before the Board of Commissioners, and the Circuit’s Secretary notified them of deciding a decision on July 4, 2023 to be considered before the Board of Commissioners with the presence of the representative of the plaintiffs, so that the Board decided to schedule a date on July 12, 2023.The plaintiffs’ lawyers continued going to the Secretary of the Board of Commissioners till a month passed after setting a date for deciding a ruling on the lawsuit, while the Commissioners’ report has not been submitted.

On August 22,2023, the lawyers were surprised by the receipt of the case report and its referral to the court circuit for consideration on August 17, 2023. Then the Court decided to ‏schedule the case for adjudication on September 21, without notifying the plaintiffs or their attorneys, and without enabling them to view the outcomes of the Board of Commissioners’ report, and without giving the lawyers their right to state their defense and submitting their demands before the Court.

Accordingly, the Center’s lawyers submitted a request to a retrial before the Administrative Court, awaiting to setting a date for a hearing as soon as possible in order to be capable of reviewing the report of the Board of Commissioners, commenting on it, and presenting our defense, documents and legal memorandums.