The security forces came at around 3 am to dismantle our stalls. They chose to do this in the middle of the night, so that none of the booksellers would be there to defend their property. We weren’t given any prior notice that this was going to happen, nor any opportunity to get our books back. These books are our only means of earning a living.
There have been booksellers on Prophet Daniel Street for years. It’s a tradition. In my family, the business has been passed down through the generations: my father was a bookseller for 40 years, and my brother and I followed in his footsteps. I’ve sold books here for 23 years. Sadly, when it comes to carrying out orders and applying the law, the security forces don’t consider the impact that their actions will have on people’s lives.
Le lendemain, après le délogement des bouquinistes.
On a more positive note, the campaign organised by local residents [a silent protest took place on Friday afternoon to denounce the destruction of the booksellers’ stands] and the outrage expressed by intellectuals and journalists were a pleasant surprise. Personally, I don’t think this is a case of the government or the local authorities waging a campaign against culture. Rather, I think that the governor of Alexandria, who only took up this position recently, went too far in applying the law which bans the display of goods in the street. The crackdown was undoubtedly targeting the city’s street vendors and open-air stalls. In my opinion, these are the actions of an amateur politician.
"We’ve been requesting permits that prove we have the right to sell our goods on the street for years now"
The local authorities tried to undo some of the negative publicity surrounding this incident by announcing that we would be compensated for our losses and that we could continue selling books on Prophet Daniel Street. But in a meeting that we had with officials on Saturday they ended up retracting their offer of compensation.
We’ve been requesting permits that prove we have the right to sell our goods on the street for years now. But there is a lot of red tape in Egypt, and the recent political instability has only made the situation worse. Everything we did before the revolution to acquire permits has come to nothing, as we’ve been told that the documents were lost or burnt. The government needs to do more than simply make statements. They must do something about our precarious position. If they don’t give us any legal guarantees, there’s nothing to say that an incident like this won’t happen again.