Middle East

Egypt orders changes to statue 'depicting sexual harassment'

The Mother of the Martyr sculpture, which depicts a slender peasant woman, a traditional artistic representation of Egypt, with her arms outstretched with a helmeted soldier standing behind her, at a public square in Sohag, Egypt Image copyright AP
Image caption The Mother of the Martyr statue has been criticised for depicting sexual harassment

An Egyptian artist has been forced to change a sculpture honouring fallen soldiers after it was criticised as apparently depicting sexual harassment.

Mother of the Martyr features a slender peasant woman - a common representation of Egypt - being held by a helmeted soldier.

But residents in the city of the Sohag claim it is inappropriate.

The concrete statue, located close to a girls' school in the city, has yet to be formally unveiled.

Along with criticism of an apparent unwanted advance on a woman, others suggest the 8.5-metre-tall artwork depicts Egypt's military seducing the country.

The governor of Sohag, Ayman Abdel-Monaim, has ordered an investigation into the commissioning of the statue.

The controversy, which made national headlines and a flurry of comments on social media, underlines the difficulties faced by artists in the country, analysts say.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Sculptor Wagih Yani has defended his work, which he says represents the "spirit of the martyr"

Sculptor Wagih Yani, 60, is now modifying his work, removing the soldier and placing an olive branch in the hands of the woman.

White doves symbolising peace will form a crescent over the woman's head, he said.

Mr Yani has defended his work, telling the Associated Press news agency he rejected suggestions of impropriety and insisting the soldier represented the "spirit of the martyr" protecting Egypt.

"I remain convinced of the sculpture's original idea and the modifications will not steer far from that," he said.

"But I personally feel that it's important to me that everyone is happy with the sculpture."

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