The 2015 Riyadh International Book Fair: A Mixed Bag

In keeping with the theme of my late-2014, early-2015 blog posts, I share this portrait of the status of free speech and book censorship in Saudi Arabia–both to illustrate by contrast how privileged many nations are to have freedoms not shared in the Kingdom, and to reinforce the importance of keeping speech and expression free, no matter what the substance or circumstances.

Arabic Literature (in English)

The giant Riyadh International Book Fair wrapped up on March 14 with strong sales, a crackdown on a “tolerance” event, and a warning to publishers: No one may distribute or sell printed materials, books and videos to visitors without prior approval from management.

riyadhThe crackdown came early on in the fair, on March 8, when the local Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice (PVPV) shut down a seminar titled “Youth and Arts .. A Call for Coexistence.”

According to the Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), one of the speakers at the event denounced the destruction of monuments by ISIS, a denunciation that the Saudi PVPV considered “to be a defense of idols renounced in Islam.”

ANHRI writes:

The members of the Saudi religious police CPVPV attacked Dr. Mojab al-Zahrani during the conference, as he expressed his condemnation of the destruction of monuments of civilization in Iraq by ISIS…

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