Update: Culture minister to investigate Alexandria book market destruction

Alexandria security services destroyed a book market on Al-Nabi Daniel Street in the early hours of Friday morning on orders from the newly-appointed governor, Mohamed Atta Abbas, prompting an outcry from culture officials, activists and writers.

Culture Minister Saber Arab told Al-Masry Al-Youm that an investigation into the incident will be opened and added that he will contact the governor of Alexandria to discuss the problem.

“What happened was a shame because books should not be dealt with in this chaotic way. The sellers should have been notified in advance and alternative places should have been made available to them.”

Al-Nabi Daniel Street is an important cultural heritage site in Alexandria but on Friday it was in shambles as piles of books and destroyed kiosks blocked the street.

Assem Shalabi, head of the Union of Egyptian Publishers, told Al-Masry Al-Youm that he would also investigate the incident and if the kiosk owners file a lawsuit he would support them. He added that the street is one of the main outlets for distribution of the union's books and is equal in value to Cairo's Azbakeya book market.

“If the removed kiosks prove to have been licensed, the removal would be a crime that must not pass easily. The owners of the kiosks would have the right to prosecute the officials,” Ahmed Megahed, head of the General Authority for Books, said.

Saad Abdel Rahman, head of the General Authority for Cultural Palaces, said that the incident shows how ignorant officials are of the value of books. He added the incident resembles the barbarian destruction of classical culture.

Activists and intellectuals organized a demonstration after Friday prayers at mosques near Al-Nabi Daniel Street in Alexandria to protest the market’s destruction. They said the incident should not occur under President Mohamed Morsy, stressing that the kiosks had an association that represented them and were licensed.

A number of writers and journalists denounced the assault on the book market on Twitter.

Columnist Bilal Fadl said on Twitter: “I call on the Alexandrian community to restore Al-Nabi Daniel’s kiosks, protect sellers and not destroy the heritage of Alexandria for a governor suffering from intellectual difficulties and flawed priorities.”

He went on to ask if the governor of Alexandria and his men would dare to remove “all the floors built against the law in buildings that belong to the rich in Alexandria instead of assaulting the kiosks of the poor?”

“All the people of Alexandria complain of the spread of thugs and poor services and building violations, but I have never heard a resident saying that the Al-Nabi Daniel book kiosks should be destroyed,” Fadl wrote.

He accused the officials of forcing the sellers into criminal activity by destroying their source of income.

Writer Fatma Naaot also criticized the campaign, saying that Al-Nabi Daniel Street is a very important cultural site in Egypt.

Naaot wrote on her Twitter account: “Oh my God! Every day we destroy part of Egypt?! Do our children not have the right to receive Egypt as we've received it from our ancestors, if not more beautiful? Stop the massacre of Alexandria libraries!”

Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm

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