[lg policy] Books Gaddafi banned sell well in rebel-held Libya

Fri May 13 11:52:56 UTC 2011

Saw this Reuters item on another list, and thought that an unanswered (and unasked) question regarded the language of the books - perhaps it is too obvious that they are in Arabic. Nevertheless, in my few visits to bookstores in Cairo years ago I remember there being a lot of titles in English and at least a few in French. 

All  this brings to mind a question about the state of writing in and translation into Arabic. Not that long ago one would see articles purporting that more books were translated into Spanish or Greek (for example) in any given year than there were into Arabic in a much longer frame of time. Has that been changing such that enterprising booksellers in Benghazi can source a wide range of titles in Arabic for their customers? 

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-----Original Message-----
From: Yvonne van Driel Krol <yvandrielkrol at gmail.com>
Date: Thu, 12 May 2011 14:54:33 
To: malilink<malilink at malilink.net>; msas mali<msas at maliwatch.org>
Subject: [msas] Khaddafi's Libya: education or indoctrination?
 Books Gaddafi banned sell well in rebel-held Libya
Wed May 11, 2011 10:59am GMT

   * East Libyans say Gaddafi kept them in ignorance

* Book on politics, government among most popular

  By Mohammed Abbas

 BENGHAZI, Libya, May 11 (Reuters) - The revolution that swept Muammar
Gaddafi from power in east Libya has been a bonanza for bookstores as
curious readers stock up on titles banned during his decades-long rule.

Newly uncensored works on history and religion and books by opposition
exiles are most popular, say booksellers in the eastern rebel stronghold of

"People are thirsty for knowledge, to know about their history," said
bookseller Yusuf al-Muahaishi, who said sales had doubled since mass
protests prised much of east Libya from Gaddafi's grip in mid-February.

"Books about the history of Libya were banned or censored. They mostly had
to be about Gaddafi," Muahaishi said as he served customers at the al Tamour
bookshop in central Benghazi.

Gaddafi is still in power in the capital Tripoli and most of western Libya
despite airstrikes by NATO forces. Rebel fighters have made little headway
after months of fighting.

Under Gaddafi's four-decade rule, opposition was crushed, power was
concentrated in his hands and the education system used to promote his Third
Universal Theory, which sought to steer a course between Islam and

Gaddafi banned political parties and set up a system for direct rule by
citizens via town hall committees. Critics say the committees had no power
in his centralised, authoritarian state and were mere channels for his
personal patronage.

Booksellers say Gaddafi's drive to promote his thoughts and philosophy --
partly through his own authorised bestseller, the infamous "Green Book" --
meant heavy censorship or the banning of books with other points of view.

Historical works about Libya before the overthrow of King Idris in 1969 were
also taboo.

"Demand is good, despite the economic troubles. The most popular books are
history books, and books by the exiled opposition. People never used to come
in before because they thought censorship meant there was little worth
buying," said Mohammed Jarahi of the Dar wa Maktab al-Fadhel bookshop.

Many religious books were illegal, booksellers said, including those by
hard-line Islamists, but also moderate texts.

Under Gaddafi's rule, some vendors would sell illicit books to select
customers, risking lengthy prison sentence.


At Muahaishi's store, books on religion take pride of place at the shop
front, but the next customer bought two books on constitutional law.

He also picked up a free booklet left at the store by activists keen to
educate the public about constitutions.

"We have lived 41 years of ignorance, so we have to educate ourselves and
others. We don't have a constitution yet, but we will not have one thrust
upon us without us being able to understand it," said engineer Gebril

East Libya is now run by the Provisional Transitional National Council
(PTNC), a hastily-formed body that is struggling to administer the region,
fend off attacks by Gaddafi loyalists and secure cash, food and medicine.

To make matters more difficult, few Libyans have experience of politics and
civil administration given Gaddafi's tight grip on power.

Osama al-Tanashi, whose book and stationary shop is near the council
headquarters, said books on crisis management had been selling well, as well
as books on law and development.

"Judges, academics and many members of the transitional council are buying.
Such people never bothered with buying books here before because law and
academia was heavily proscribed by the government," he said.

"In Gaddafi's time, we had no law. We're starting from zero." (Editing by
Tom Pfeiffer and Andrew Heavens)

© Thomson Reuters 2011 All rights reserved

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