"It’s the first time that there has been such an outburst. This speaks volumes about the tension in the country."
Yasser, 22, is an IT student. He filmed the incident.
I was visiting the book fair in the afternoon of March 2, when I saw about 12 men enter into a heated discussion with the book sellers. At first, it was calm. However, the men then got quite worked up up and started to admonish the book stalls for selling ‘immoral’ books, such as novels with sexual content and works which are 'deist or speak ill of Islam.' The publishers dealt with them by sending them to the Culture and Information Minister, who had just arrived at the book fair.
Tensions flared, and the conversation took a turn for the worst. The minister retorted that the protesters were the only ones to find the books ‘immoral’. The Islamists began shouting: ‘You talk about freedom of expression and allow these heretic books, but you ban those which deal with Islam, such as the works of the Jihadist theorist Sayyid Qutb
.' Their tone became threatening, prompting security guards to intercede and forcibly expel the rowdy visitors.
Video published on the YouTube profile of our observer.
Every year, the Riyad Book Fair is controversial, but this is the first time that there has been such an outburst. The incident speaks volumes about the current tensions in Saudi Arabia. Authorities have their hands full dealing with Shiite discontent in the east of the country
. They cannot afford to let signs of dissent, however small, take place in the capital as well. The fact that the protesters in the book fair were immediately expelled shows the government is nervous and will not tolerate any form of criticism.”
The Information Minister later reacted on his Facebook page, criticising the 'harrassing of publishers and visitors' and calling the book fair a 'cultural showcase for the country'.
Article written France 24 journalists Sarra Grira and Paul Larrouturou.