Egyptian customs officers seizing books as they enter the country is not a new phenomenon, but attacks on books seem to have gone higher-profile in the last six months:
There was the burning of thirty-six books at a Hurghada public library in August of last year, the confiscation of two philosophical works and a novel in September, published by Dar al-Tanweer, and now Al Masry al Youm reports that Egyptian customs officers in Alexandria “have seized 400 copies of Walls of Freedom, a book that examines and celebrates Egypt’s street art post-2011.
This book was also on its way to Dar al-Tanweer.
The reason given by the country’s finance ministry, according to Al-Masry Al-Youm, was that the book was “instigating revolt.”
Ahmed al-Sayyad, the ministry’s undersecretary, apparently told Al-Masry Al-Youm that the book contains elements that give “advice on confronting police and army forces.”
The books had arrived from Germany and were to be delivered to Dar al-Tanweer publishing house, al-Sayyad told Al Masry Al Youm. He added that the items were confiscated and would be transferred to prosecution services.
In response to the seizure, acclaimed novelist Ahdaf Soueif, who wrote the book’s forward, has made her text introducing the book available on Facebook. It begins:
The streets mattered. They were where we lived, met and talked; where we renewed our commitment to our ideas and to each other. In the streets we were at our strongest and our most vulnerable; it was in the streets that many of us were wounded, kidnapped, beaten – that some of us died. But in the streets we were together; each one of us was out there doing everything we could to push the revolution forward, and to reaffirm also – to re-experience – the certainty we carried in our hearts: I am not alone. I am one small part of something amazing, of a massive movement of humanity with a common will towards the good.
Walls of Freedom is a collection that includes the work of 100 artists, 100 photographers, as well as twenty essays by artists, activists, researchers, and writers. The popular and acclaimed book — which was three years in the works — was successfully crowdfunded in 2013, raising nearly double its initial $25,000 goal.
The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information also issued a statement about the seizure today, writing that: “ANHRI demands the Egyptian authorities release the confiscated copies and allow them to be exchanged, since it is a historical work and a documentation of one of the most important periods in Egyptian history.”
This comes soon after Egypt’s censorship head was initially quoted as saying scenes would no longer be cut from films, but then clarified his position, saying that yes, the government agency retained the right to cut scenes from film.
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