The giant Riyadh International Book Fair is set to close on Friday, and this year’s fair has not been without its explosive event:
As reported by AFP, WSJ, and elsewhere, when Nawaf al-Qudaimi — co-founder of the Arab Network for Research and Publishing — went to his stall last Friday, he was surprised to find that it had been raided.
He tweeted this before-and-after photo, which has been widely shared:
As it shows in the photo, the name of another publisher was put in the Arab Network for Research and Publishing’s place.
Al-Qudaimi told the WSJ that he was informed that his publishing house would not be welcome at the fair in future years, either.
According to the Makkah newspaper, the Minister of Culture and Information, Dr. Abdulaziz Khoja, defended the decision to remove the stall and confiscate books that it said violated the KSA’s laws. “Any publishing house that violates the system will face the same fate,” Khoja’s statement said, “because the Kingdom’s security is more important than anything, and trying to destabilize our unity can not be tolerated.”
Al-Qudaimi told the WSJ that all the books in his stall had been pre-approved by the ministry and that most of them have been sold there in previous years. He attributed the seizure to the tense political situation in Saudi Arabia following a governmental decision to designate the Muslim Brotherhood and other groups as a terrorist organizations.
Indeed, before the fair, many “Muslim Brotherhood” books had been already pre-banned as threatening “intellectual security.”
Last year, the book fair saw protests against detentions. In 2009, International Prize for Arabic Fiction-winning author Abdo Khal and fellow author Abdullah Thabet were arrested for approaching (female) author Halima Muzfar. In 2011, a religious group stormed the fair, accusing those within of “immoral practices,” harassing women, and stopping journalists from taking photos. They were ushered out by police.
According to the WSJ, the Arab Network for Research and Publishing was established in 2007 and specializes in nonfiction titles about Saudi Arabia and political Islam.