Participants at the Algiers book event examined how to preserve the achievements of popular revolutions and pursue people’s quest for freedom.

By Fidet Mansour for Magharebia in Algiers – 03/10/2011

The Arab Spring has found its way to the 16th Algiers International Book Fair (SILA), which wrapped up on Sunday (October 2nd). More than 500 publishers from 32 countries gathered at the ten-day event to dissect, analyse and explain the epic changes rocking the Arab world.

Authors, poets and essayists from Algeria, Lebanon, Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Syria, South Africa, France, Russia, Spain and other countries participated in the discussion panels held under the theme, “The book delivers”.

Some 500 Tunisian titles were on display, including “the most important works published after the January 14, 2011 revolution”, Publishers Union chief Noureddine Abid said.

Former Algerian foreign minister and UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi discussed the modern history of the Arab world and the ferment experienced by the region, marked by a desire for a real break with the past. The challenge facing the Arab world is how to rebuild itself and continue along the path of reform, he said.

The challenge now is “how to preserve the achievements of the revolutions and pursue the people’s quest for democracy, liberty and development” as well as avoid committing fatal errors, explained Amr El Shoubaki, a senior analyst at the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies. The answers to these two problems, the speaker said, will be the key to successful revolutions.

The symposium produced some other remarkable insights. Abdel Ghaffar Shokr, Vice-President of the Arab and African Research Center in Cairo, highlighted the particular role played by women and youths in the reform process triggered by the uprisings. Their role was “primordial” given the large number of women and young people who took to the streets, whether in Egypt, Tunisia or Libya, to demand change.

Another subject of debate was the economic aspect of revolutions. The participants also discussed the coverage of the Arab Spring in the Western media.

The event, however, did not pass without controversy. The religious affairs ministry decided to withdraw more than 400 books intended for display at the fair. Rachid Hadj Nacer, the director of books and reading at the Ministry of Culture, said that “the majority of those were religious books.”

Culture Minister Khalida Toumi explained that the books included “those supporting colonialism, terrorism, racism, and those attacking the revolution of national liberation”.

According to national daily newspaper Echorouk, the banned books included the ones that could propagate fundamentalist thought or ignite ethnic problems in Algeria.

Source: Magharebia.