“Avenger of the Pharaohs”

Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak & Dr. Zahi Hawass

He’s been dubbed Egypt’s Avenger of the Pharaohs.

More formally, though, Dr. Zahi Hawass is the Secretary General of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, an official adviser to National Geographic‘s new Arabic edition, and one of our Society’s Explorers-in-Residence. He’s also Egypt’s Deputy Minister of Culture, an appointment made by President Hosni Mubarak in 2009. According to Dr. Hawass:

“…. I was very honored by [President Mubarak’s] decision, as it shows his continuing support of my work to preserve the monuments of Egypt…. I would also like to say how grateful I am to President Mubarak. He is a unique man, who has given a lot to his country. He has been in public service for years and I have not once seen him make a decision just for himself. Everything he does, he does for Egypt.”

It’s a sweet sentiment, though not widely shared:

In related news: Dr. Hawass recently launched an aggressive campaign to demand the return of Egyptian artifacts that are now part of museum collections in Europe and the United States. Spiegel Online calls it a “a bitter moral campaign against the West.

“We were once at the very top,” [Hawass] says, referring to the time of the pharaohs. “Be proud of this heritage,” he tells young people.

Hawass often speaks of dignity, respect and honor. He believes that his nation was cheated, and that it is his mission to exact revenge for this treatment.

We understand why Dr. Hawass — and, by extension, President Mubarak — have embarked on such a mission: They’re Egyptians, and are proud of their nation’s pharaonic legacy.

But why is the National Geographic Society helping to enable their “bitter moral campaign against the West” by supporting and promoting Dr. Hawass? Why empower a man who celebrates an ancient empire — and a modern dictator — that have exhibited such little regard for freedom, human rights, and democracy?

Dear John,
Any thoughts?

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