Egyptian State Security Moves to Ban Alaa al-Aswany’s Monthly Public Seminar

Columnist, dentist, and novelist Alaa al-Aswany (@AlaaAswany) announced that his montly seminar — set to be held today at the Jesuits Cultural Center in Alexandria — was cancelled by state security:

A photo from one of al-Aswany's 2013 seminars. Source: Wikipedia.
A photo from one of al-Aswany’s 2013 seminars. Source: Wikipedia.

The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) condemned the cancellation, stating in a news release that, “This move completes the crackdown on the great writer; starting from his articles that are being stifled, he is banned from appearing on the state-based media outlets, to the cancellation of his month seminar in Alexandria.”

Al-Aswany has been holding nadwa-like public seminars for several years, both in Cairo and Alexandria. Today’s was to be called “Conspiracy Theory Between Reality and Illusion.” However, according to ANHRI, al-Aswany was “informed that the security bodies ordered the cancellation of his seminar.”

This follows the censorship of al-Aswany’s weekly column in Al Masry Al Youm and a ban on his appearance in state-run media. Al-Aswany still has a monthly column in the New York Times, although the most recent appeared in October. “Into the bargain,” ANHRI states, “he is being subjected to smear campaigns on account of defending his right as well as his fans’ right to freedom of expression, and the right to criticize the absence of freedoms, and the deteriorating media scene in Egypt.”

In a phone call to ANHRI, Al-Aswany reportedly said: “The state has dozens of newspapers and satellite channels that speak on its behalf and defend its stances, so why [does] it waste the citizen’s right to hold a seminar that is attended by scores or hundreds. Do not we have the right to express our views and hold a seminar to discuss our country’s affairs?”

On Twitter, al-Aswany called the current government a “modified version of the Mubarak regime” that thinks repression can protect it from those who’d fight back against injustice. “These are the same miscalculations that brought down Mubarak.”