A short summary about the Libyan book outrage
*I’m going to try my best to explain what happened but this is just a short disection of events.*
During the last week a group of authors who contributed to the book شمس على نوافذ مغلقة “sun over closed windows” visited Zawia city for a book signing event. The book includes different types of writing from a selection of young libyan authors. It was meant to highlight the peaceful power of words and how they can be used to fight hate speech and violence.
What’s the worse that can happen it’s just a book?
Zawia is a conservative city that is ruled by multiple militias that have religious leanings.
In the beginning of the book there is an excerpt from a novel called Kashan by ahmed bouhkari. This novel was published previously 4 years ago with the knowlege of the Libyan cultural ministry. It tells the story of 4 different Libyan youth from 4 different lifestyles and how they fell in love with a girl. One of these characters is a street thug. In order to demonstrate the realities of the Libyan world, the author used sexually explicit language in the text.
Someone uploaded the screenshots of the text online without context and it went viral. Many facebook pages started to call for the arrest, death, murder of anyone associated with the book. Most of that hate was directed at the women unfortuantely. They started using all the previous photos of women who weren’t even a part of the book and disgracing them and their families online.
Due to the hate speech and harassment that was directed at them and their families, some female authors issued statements online. Each writer announced that they were only responsible for what they wrote. There was no previous knowlege of what would be published other than their own contributions. The book was published by @Darf Publishers in the Uk so it didn’t go through the Libyan approval system.
A lot of the comments were inciting violence towards any woman who dared comment or defend the book.
Libyan women have started to react by getting together in groups and organising themselves to report all the online posts that are inciting violence against the authors. I myself have managed to report two links that were removed by Facebook today.
People went as far as calling for “alrad3”-a libyan militia — to get involved and interrogate those involved with the book. Regular Libyans are participating in these horrible online abuses without taking into account anyone’s safety.
The Benghazi “Earth hour” incident that happened a few months ago was also a frightening sign that Libya is headed away from a civil state into a more restricted scenario. Increasingly, online hate comments are endangering people’s lives on the ground. Two women who were photographed in the event were targeted by extremists and subjected to terrible harassment online and offline.
Civil society and culture are being branded as weapons of liberalisation by extremists. Many book clubs were already being closed down or heavily monitored and censored in different Libyan cities. If this pattern continues it will put a lot of innocent lives in danger.
Who knows what the future will look like?
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