Lights Out at Palestinian-Egyptian Literary Festival

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Some of the 500 Palestinian Hamas National security force recruits march during their graduation ceremony in Gaza City on 19 April 2012. (Photo: AFP - Mohammed Abed)

By: Taghrid Atallah, Rasha Hilwi

Published Friday, May 11, 2012

Gaza, Acre - After four days of celebrating literature and art, the closing ceremony of the fifth Palestine Literary Festival in Gaza on Wednesday had an unexpected guest.

Security forces belonging to the Hamas government broke up the meeting of Egyptian and Palestinian writers and intellectuals participating in the event.

The Egyptian delegation ran to the bus in panic. “Neither culture, nor writing — nothing is of use here,” poet Youssef al-Kadra announced while heading out.

Egyptian author Sahar el-Mogi became so anxious that she thought that Egypt’s Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) was behind the incident.

“What just happened? We were having fun!” remarked her fellow countryman Youssef Rakha.

In any case, Hamas shutting down culture and arts events has become a familiar sight.

During the closing ceremony, which turned out to be more like a political event, the electricity was suddenly cut.

Organizers and audience alike thought the reason was due to the siege imposed on Gaza and continued the program.

But five minutes later a commotion was heard coming from the entrance of the Dar al-Basha hall.

Then the internal security forces stormed into the hall and snatched the camera of the young woman filming the festival.

They demanded that the ceremony be stopped because it does not have a permit.

In the meantime, the police escorted the audience out of the hall, yelled at the organizers, and hit Egyptian musician Hazem Shaheen.

Egyptian writer and researcher Amr Ezzat went up to one of the policemen and asked why the ceremony was being shut down.

Ezzat was told that it was his own statement, in which he said that he could not accept repression under the pretext of resistance, that prompted the raid.

Furthermore, the security forces were monitoring the activities of Ezzat and blogger Alaa Abdel Fattah on Twitter.

Ezzat had tweeted about Hamas interfering in everything the delegation does, saying, “All that was left for them to do was to follow us into the bathroom.”

Following the incident, the audience accompanied the delegation to the Quds International Hotel to continue the evening in a more humble setting.

Tarek Hamdan from Palestine and Amin Haddad Egypt read some of their poems.

Shaheen played his music to many young Palestinians who came in solidarity to apologize for an authority that will not stop repressing and misrepresenting them.

“The program was not political. I wanted to summarize our experience here and the stories of the young people we spoke to, and who are constantly harassed by Hamas, especially about the repression of freedoms,” Ezzat told Al-Akhbar.

What is comical is that after the ceremony moved to the hotel, the head of internal security arrived. He said it was “a mistake and a misreading of the position [in Ezzat’s statement].”

He gave a formal apology and added that the incident is being investigated.

“It’s ok. It’s not the first time they make a mistake!” came the reply of a young Gazan on Twitter.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.


The story is really well done, but I have to say that is an odd and distracting choice of photo. It's a basically a picture of two mannequins and two out of focus women in the West Bank. If there were really no photos available of the actually literary festival, perhaps at least a photo from Gaza?

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