Egypt metro station named after a former corrupt official’s wife

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In a bizarre event, the Minister of Transportation, General Kamel al-Wazir, announced that the Zamalek subway station is to be named after Mrs. Safaa Hegazy, which will make this station the first station in Egypt to be named after a woman. This, however, is not the strange part of the story. The bizarre part is that of all the famous male and female figures who have inhabited this upscale neighbourhood, Zakaria Azmi’s ex-wife’s name was the one that the general chose to name the station after.

In a call-in with the television host Amr Adeeb during his programme Alhekaia “The Story,” which is broadcast on the Saudi satellite channel MBC Maser, General Kamel al-Wazir, the Minister of Transportation, announced President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s instruction to name the Zamalek subway station after the late journalist Safaa Hegazy, the former president of the Radio and Television Union, without giving any reasons for the decision. Under the direction of Dorreya Sharafeddin, the Information Minister at the time, Hegazy was named head of the news sector of the Egyptian Television in September 2013 to become the first woman to assume this position since the beginning of the Egyptian TV broadcasting in 1960.

A source in Maspero informed Egypt Watch that the employees in the news sector filed a memo in 2014 asking Essam el-Amir, president of the Radio and Television Union at the time, to remove Hegazy from her position as the head of the sector on the basis of several financial, administrative, and professional crises that she could not solve. After several months of investigating the matter, el-Amir submitted a memo in 2015 to the prime minister demanding her removal from her position and assigning her the job of a consultant based on the complaints received from the leaders and workers of the news sector. The sources said that what happened next was something strange and completely unexpected. In a bizarre turn of events, right after Essam el-Amir submitted his complaint to the prime minister, he was the one to be removed and Safaa Hegazy took over his place to become the first woman to occupy the position of the president of the Egyptian Radio and Television Union in April 2016. The sources added that all the union staff were aware of the semi-secret marriage between Safaa Hegazy and the former chief of presidential staff Zakaria Azmi who married her over his first wife Bahia Abdel-Moneim Halawa. The marriage was not announced publicly, and she did not accompany him to any public parties or events.

Hegazy started working at the Egyptian Radio in 1984 after she graduated from the accounting department of the faculty of Commerce, Mansoura University. She moved rapidly to become a TV presenter reading the news, then she became the host of the House of Arabs programme. Afterward, she moved on to the Egyptian Satellite when it was first launched at the end of 1990, then she was sent abroad to cover the Gulf War. In 2007, she was prevented from appearing on TV according to a decision issued from the news sector that forbade overweight women broadcasters from appearing on the screen or presenting the news. She was a member of the 9 o’clock news broadcast team at the time. She came back to become the vice president of the news sector in 2012, then the president of the sector in 2013. She is the aunt of Sarah Hazem, the TV host of the Today programme on DMC.

Many Egyptians expressed their bewilderment at the naming of the Zamalek subway station after Hegazy as that neighbourhood was inhabited with prominent Egyptian figures like Um Kulthum, Soad Hosny, and Faten Hamama among other writers and artists who deserved to have that station named after them. Her husband Zakaria Azmi was the Chief of the Presidential Staff throughout the reign of the overthrown President Hosni Mubarak. Azmi was well-known for his severe corruption and huge influence in Egypt. He was removed after the January revolution and was sentenced to seven years imprisonment on corruption charges in 2012 before he was acquitted in 2019 during the reign of Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.