The recent resignation of Farouq Hosni, Egypt’s Minister of Culture, for his responsibility in the death of dozens of people in a fire at a theatre in Beni Suef, has provoked heated arguments among members of the press, political parties and intellectuals.
In the Arab world, admitting responsibility is a rarity. Not so long ago, in 2002, a blaze broke out on a train carriage in northern Egypt, killing at least 350 yet no took the blame and the case is still against an unknown person or entity. Prior to the train incident, wars were fought and ended in humiliating and comprehensive defeat, and territories lost yet no one was held to account. Even when resignations did occur, they were met with fabricated popular demonstrations where men proudly declared their readiness to die for their leaders.
Farouq Hosni’s resignation was a brave step. The Prime Minister’s refusal to accept it did not benefit either politicians or those Egyptians demanding political and economic reform. If the minister stands firm, his behavior could influence other high ranking officials who might, at last, realize they are responsible for problems in institutions under their control.
Whoever succeeds Hosni will consider it a priority to ensure all cultural centers and theatres are equipped with fire extinguishing equipment to avoid another disaster.
Two months ago, at a meeting with then Minister Hosni at his office in the Zamalek neighborhood in Cairo, he and other officials in the ministry indicated significant attention was being given to refute the ideology of terrorism and promote sears surrounding historical sites. Participants felt the cultural future of Egypt was safe. Yet all these efforts do not free the minister from his responsibility in the tragedy of Beni Suef.
Of course, he is not criminally to blame for the fire and did express his sorrow for the death of innocent men and women. His resignation and readiness to accept the blame are to be applauded; they might even publicize the concept of responsibility and encourage other ministers to take control of their institutions, and fill the hearts of Egyptian with hope that reform is, at last, on the way.