In the early hours of last Friday, September 7, forces carried out a large security campaign on Prophet Daniel’s street in Alexandria. Similar to Cairo’s Azbakya wall, Prophet Daniel’s street is lined up with booths and kiosks that sell books, magazines, and references, thereby making it an Alexandrian hub for education, culture, and heritage. The street was especially favored by those who could not afford to buy books in their full price from normal bookshops, or were simply looking for a deal on a rare, old book.
General Khaled Ghoraba, deputy to the minister of interiors and Alexandria’s security chief told in Al Shorouk “the security campaign to remove violations only targeted 16 unlicensed kiosks and [didn’t affect] the licensed ones. The owners of the kiosks that have been removed had obtained approvals from the previous governor to look into the possibility of issuing licenses, but had actually obtained none.” Ghoraba added “The police will enforce the law without exceptions or considering any special interest. There is no one above the law and the security campaigns to remove violations will continue”
The events of Friday morning closely followed a meeting between President Mohamed Morsi and some of Egypt’s artists, writers, and intellectuals. The meeting was actually set up to assure these artists, writers, and intellectuals about the bright future of art, culture, and creative freedom under the new regime.
The raid elicited a wave of enraged commentary from artists, intellectuals, activists and average Egyptians, deeming it a blatant attack on Alexandria’s intellectual heritage.
Belal Fadl , a famous Alexandrian author and columnist, had Tweeted that what happened in the raid was an outrageous crime and that the governor of Alexandria had misguided priorities. Fadl added that instead of providing services, removing garbage, or paving roads that Alexandrians have long complained about, the governor chose to tear down book kiosks instead. He argued that the governor and his men would have never dared to remove the violations committed by influential or rich Alexandrians and instead chose to remove the kiosks owned by a poor segment that is servicing Alexandria’s citizens.
, an Egyptian author and journalist, called what happened on Friday a “massacre” of Alexandria’s bookshops. “It is a shame that bookshops would be torn down when they should’ve been built under your rule,” she Tweeted.
Gamal El Ghitany, writer and novelist, told Al-Masry Al-Youm
that the raid is a fascist decision that tarnishes Morsi’s rule. He argued that the decision was purely political rather than administrative because the governor was a part of the Muslim Brotherhood and this is a show of the Brotherhood’s enmity to cultural productions. El Ghitany added, “The raid happened a day after Morsi’s meeting with Egypt’s artists to prove that he is all talk.”
Several activists have also condemned the events comparing how the country reacted to the burning of the Egyptian Scientific Institute, which no one really appreciated until it was burned down, and the demolishment of Prophet Daniel’s Kiosks, which educated many of our best artists, writers, and intellectuals.
In response to the security campaign, Mohamed Abdel Moniem El Sawy
, founder of El-Sawy Wheel of Culture and a member of the constitutional assembly working, Tweeted that he will suggest a constitutional article that incriminates the destruction of books. According to El-Sawy, the encroacher should be punished without punishing the books.
The Minister of Culture, Mohamed Saber Arab, also condemned the attack and expressed his deep regret. “Books should not be handled in this chaotic way. Kiosk owners should have been notified prior to the raid and should have been relocated someplace else,” Arab told the media.
On the other side, police personnel and government officials have assured that what they did was only follow the rule of law in removing unlicensed and illegal booths from the roads, which is actually a part of Morsi’s 100 days promises. et