Sunday, December 03, 2006

Egyptian government forcibly ejecting 3,200 families from their homes

I don't discuss current politics here. I doubt my readers care what I think about electronic voting machines, Supreme court decisions, or mid-term elections. However, these articles might be of interest.

The Egyptian government is forcibly confiscating the homes of 3,200 families in al-Qurna town, some of whom have lived on the spot for 1000 years. Their crime? Living in homes above archeological sites.

I am not expert in archeology, urban planning, or law. Perhaps these evictions are good? Yet it seems cruel to eject families from their homes merely to allow other people to dig up the town looking for stuff. If the land is valuable, why not offer to buy it from the residents? This forced eviction has been the life dream of 'Zahi Hawass, Egypt's head of antiquities' (according to the Al Jazeera story which runs without a byline). Mr. Hawass claimed that 'archaeology is regaining its rights here'. It seems unlikely to me that archaeology had rights in the past! I suspect 'archaeology' is getting new rights.

I wonder any of the 10,000 displaced citizens had any 'life dreams' that involved keeping their homes?

(quotes from articles linked above)

'We have been living here for a thousand years,' said another resident, Alaa Ahmed, a local tour guide and one of al-Qarna's younger residents.

The government began trying to get the families to leave after World War II, but talks repeatedly bogged down. Many residents, who depend on Luxor's tourist business to earn livings, argued that new homes being offered were too small and didn't come with new jobs.

In an effort to preserve the ancient tombs, the authorities prohibited the homeowners from adding to their residences or installing modern plumbing, which forced people to bring water uphill using donkeys.

Elina Paulin-Grothe, an archaeologist involved in tomb excavation, said the best way to preserve the artifacts below is to move the residents.

Zahi Hawass, Egypt's head of antiquities, said: 'The fact that archaeology is regaining its rights here is the dream of my life. Hidden treasures are there.'

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