Oman: Oman: Many books confiscated during 23rd Muscat International Book Fair


Authorities in Oman confiscated a large number of books during the Muscat International Book Fair held from 21 February 2018 to 03 March 2018. The authorities gave no reason for confiscating these books and did not declare who was behind the arbitrary decisions.

According to reports received by the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR), the number of confiscated books exceeded 20. Among these were four books by writer Saeed Al Hashimi, "Song of Shadow", "Yasmin on absence", "The Omani Spring", and “Oman: human & power”. Also confiscated were “Who Does not Like Gamal Abdulnasser” by writer Suleiman Al-Maamari, "A Woman Who Laughs not her Time" by writer Nabhan Al-Hanashi, "The Turban of the Military" by writer Hamoud Saud, “Khattab between the gloominess of the grave” by writer Mohammed Al-Fazari, and "The Gulf in the Time of Cholera" by writer Zaher Al-Mahrouqi. The book "Samahani" by Abdulaziz Baraka, a writer from Sudan, was also banned. He called upon the authorities in Oman not to confiscate his book, saying: "Do not imprison the words."

"The subject of the withdrawal and prevention of books - anywhere in the world - shows that a traditional mentality still manages things; in the age of technology and open space, no book can be confiscated," said writer Zaher Al-Mahrouqi in an article published on 03 March.

It is worth mentioning that some of the confiscated books have won awards while others have been highly celebrated and a number of these books were published by the Ministry of Heritage and Culture of Oman, which organised the book fair, reflecting the randomness of the arbitrary decisions to confiscate these same books.

GCHR deplores the arbitrary decision by the authorities in Oman to confiscate these books and thus put freedom of expression at grave risk. The authorities should stop their systematic attempts to curtail public freedoms in Oman, including freedom of the press, freedom of opinion, freedom of expression and freedom of assembly. They have to meet their obligations to protect the space available for civil society activities and refrain from harassing writers, journalists, human rights defenders and Internet activists.