Alexandria’s newly-appointed governor, Mohamed Atta Abbas, ordered security forces to dismantle book kiosks in Egypt last week. A mainstay of local culture, al-Nabi Daniel street booksellers posted images of ransacked kiosks on their Facebook page. The Minister of Culture has vowed to investigate the incident, according to Egypt Independent, but activists and writers are duly alarmed. We recently lauded the Bibliotecha Alexandria as a model for sustainable development in the region; has the new governor stolen that thunder?
Although at first glance the targeted aggression towards Alexandria’s booksellers may not seem like an environmental offense, curtailing freedom of information could potentially set Egypt back hundreds of years – a move that could also deform the country’s fledgling steps toward environmental awareness.
Of course it is too early to draw conclusions, since it is yet unclear what motivated the crackdown, but this is exactly the kind of anti-progress analysts feared would accompany the rise of Islamists in the region.
“The Nabi Daniel Street is considered as one of the oldest most important streets in Alexandria, where it contains more than 40 kiosks that have been selling both new and second-hand books for over 50 years and was visited by many intellectuals and writers like Nagib Mahfouz,” according to literature on the group’s website.
“It begins at Mehatet El Raml and goes all the way to Mahatet Masr. The kiosks are located just in front of the French Cultural Center.”
“The booksellers insist they have valid licenses,” wrote Michael Collins Dunn with the Middle East Institute, who added that if the booksellers are there illegally, the matter should be handled in the courts.
“I plan to follow this story as it evolves,” Dunn continued. “There is no justification for destroying booksellers. None.”