Echoes of Dictatorship as Police Confiscate Books at Tunis Book Fair

Outside the annual Tunis International Book Fair in Kram on November 20, 2021. Photo by Ghaya Ben Mbarek.

This year’s annual Tunis International Book Fair—the 36th edition and held at the Kram exhibition center from November 11 to 21—was eagerly anticipated since last year’s fair was cancelled due to Covid-19 restrictions. However, the event was marred by some of the practices and symbolism reminiscent of the authoritarian Ben Ali regime.

A “Show” by Minister of Culture and Censorship at the Egyptian Section

On November 15, Minister of Culture Hayet Guettat Guermezi paid a visit to the fair. Past visits by Culture Ministers to the fair don’t normally generate much media attention, Guermezi’s did. According to eyewitnesses who later spoke to Meshkal/Nawaat, Guermazi came in from the back door escorted by an armed, antiterrorism brigade (BAT) of the police forces, as well as police dogs in a scene that many described as “uncalled for” and “reminiscent of the old regime.” Their team then confiscated books at an Egyptian publisher’s stand published by Ennahdha leader and speaker of the now-suspended Parliament Rached Ghannouchi, according to Oussema Dhahri, a student and manager of a Tunisian publishing house’s stand at the fair…

This article was produced as part of a reporting partnership between Meshkal and Nawaat. To read the full article, click here. The full article will also be available on Meshkal.org starting from January 27, 2022.