U.S., International Publishers Stand with Mohamed Hashem

Hashem at the Frankfurt Book Fair earlier this year.

Dar Merit’s award-winning publisher Mohamed Hashem, who was targeted earlier this week by Egypt’s military rulers, has received statements of support from across the globe.

This follows the “testimonies” of two adolescent boys that were aired by Egyptian General Adel Emara at a Dec 19 press conference. The testimonies accused Hashem of distributing blankets, helmets, and food to protesters, thus “sabotage” and incitement against the Egyptian army.

Shorouk yesterday interviewed Mansour*, one of the two adolescents whose video testimonies were broadcast, and Mansour told the newspaper his story of being detained and abused by military police.

Hashem last night posted on Facebook that he regretted that Mansour, who is “the age of my daughters,” was the “victim of oppression and torture from the military police because of me.”

According to Hashem’s lawyers, a warrant has been issued for Hashem’s arrest.

Since the military’s accusations against Hashem were aired, hundreds of writers, publishers, editors, government officials, readers, and others have stepped forward to lend their support. Among the organizations that have issued formal statements are the Union of Egyptian Writers, the Egyptian Publishers Union, the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, the International Publishers Association (IPA), and the Association of American Publishers (AAP).

According to a prepared release, Tom Allen, president of AAP, said: “The nearly 300 American publishing houses who are members of AAP support our courageous and honored colleague Mohamed Hashem.”

In their prepared statement, IPA secretary general Jens Bammel: “IPA condemns any government accusations that imply wrongdoing where a publisher, through his publishing activities or otherwise, contributes peacefully to the democratic process in his country.”

Hashem has supported and published many Egyptian authors whose work fell outside the immediate bounds of acceptable political, social, or religious discourse. In his brave Vertigo, author Ahmed Mourad wrote in the acknowledgments (trans. Robin Moger):

 “To Mr. Mohammed Hashim: I’ll never forget the first time I saw you when I knocked on your door clutching the manuscript of my novel in my hand. I’ll never forget your face when you said those words: ‘I like it…I’ll publish it.’ I’ll never forget the warmth of your welcome, your distinctive laugh and your office at Merit Publishing.”

Hashem, who was born in Tanta in 1958, has worked as a reporter and is the author of a number of novellas and short stories, as well as the novel Open Playgrounds (2004). He helped found Dar Merit in 1998 and has since led the publishing house. In 2006, he was given the Jeri Laber International Freedom to Publish award, and in 2011 the Herman Kesten Award.

*Full name removed because he is a minor.