Censorship continues under Oman’s new Sultan at Muscat International Book Fair 2020

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The 2020 Muscat International Book Fair, now in its 25th edition, has once again seen many books by Omani writers seized and banned.  Nearly 50 titles in literature, philosophy, politics and social studies were censored, most of them literary works by Omani authors, whether resident in Oman or living abroad. 

Several of the participating publishing houses, such as Dar Soual and Dar Arab, published on their official Twitter accounts a list of the books that were banned or removed from the display shelves.  Meanwhile the Omani Centre for Human Rights learned through its own sources of several books not being shown at the Book Fair even though some of them were listed on the exhibition website.  Publishers said the reason they had not brought certain titles to the Fair was that they had been censored, as at previous editions of the event, or because the government in Oman was not happy with the activities of certain authors, especially those living abroad.

According to the exhibitors, these were the books censored this year:

Author Book(s) Publisher
Said al-Hashimi (9 Books) Wal-Shajar Idha Hawa (And if the trees should fall) Dar Soual
  Ma Tarakat-hu al-Zinzana lil-Warda (What the dungeon left for the rose) Dar Soual
  Obaid al-Omani Hayya (Obaid al-Omani alive) (in conjunction with Sulaiman al-Maamari) Dar Soual
  Ma min Rihla Illa wa Hiya Wida‘ (No journey but farewell) (contributing editor) Dar Soual
  Al-Rabee‘ al-Omani (The Omani Spring) (contributing editor) Dar Al-Farabi
  Al-Awtad (Pegs) Dar Al-Farabi
  Yasmin ala al-Ghiyab (Yasmin on absence) Dar Al-Intishar
  Oman: Al-Insan wal-Sulta (Oman: Man and power) Centre for Arab Unity Studies
  Ta‘wibat al-Zill (The song of the shadow) Dar Al Tanweer
Ahmed al-Zubaidi (5 Books) Intihar Obaid al-Omani (The suicide of Obaid al-Omani) Al Intishar Al Arabi
  Nabsh al-Dhakira (Searching the memory) Dar Soual
  Al-Intima’ (Belonging) Dar Soual
  Ahwal Alqbael Fi Dhofar, Imra’a Men Dhofar Alfarabi
Youssef al-Hajj (2 Books) Shita’ ’97 (Winter of ’97) Dar Soual
  Al-Rawla (Al-Rawla) Dar Soual
Saud al-Zadjali (2 Books) Min Zawaya al-Fikr (From the perspectives of thought) Dar Soual
  Tabrir al-Siyasa bil-Din (Justifying policy by means of religion) Dar Arab
Bassam Ali Uzlat al-Ra’iy (The solitude of the spectator) Dar Arab
Sulaiman al-Maamari Alladhi La Yuhibb Gamal Abdel Nasser (Who does not like Gamal Abdel Nasser) Al Intishar Al Arabi
Nabhan al-Hanashi (3 Books) Imra’a Tad-hak fi Ghair Awaniha (A woman laughs at the wrong time) Al Intishar Al Arabi
  Dau’ Khafet Li Dhakira Muhtazza (The dim light of a stirred memory) Dar Masarat
  Zill Yasqut min Mir’ah (A shadow falls from a mirror) Dar Al-Farabi
Hamoud Saud Imamat al-Askar (The turban of the military) Al Intishar Al Arabi
Mohammad al-Fazari (3 Books) Khattab Bayn Ghiyabat al-Qabr (Khattab amid the gloom of the grave) Al Intishar Al Arabi
  Al-La-Yaqin (Uncertainty) Dar Arab
  Oman: Hiwarat wa Liqa’at (Mowatin [“Citizen(Mowatin)” magazine]: Dialogues and interviews) (contributiing editor) Dar Masarat
Ahmed al-Araimi (2 Books) Khalfa Shubbak al-Hadid (Behind the iron grille) Dar Arab
  Lak La Walaa‘ (For you no loyalty) Dar Masarat
Habiba al-Hinaiya Hara’ir al-Rabee’ (Heroines of the Spring) Dar Arab
Mohammed Alharthy Aba’d Men Zanzibar Dar Sharqyat
Jamal al-Nawfali Fareq Tawqeet (Time difference) Dar Arab
Zahran al-Saremi Awar al-Lahb (The burning flame) Dar Soual
Zaher al-Mahrouqi (2 Books) Al-Khaleej fi Zaman al-Cholera (The Gulf in the time of cholera) Al Intishar Al Arabi
  Han Waqt al-Tas-hih (It’s time to put things right) Al Intishar Al Arabi
Mohammed al-Yahyai (3 Books) Hawdh al-Shahwat (The basin of desires) Al Intishar Al Arabi
  Yaoum Nafathat Khazena Algobar Alfarabi
  Tiour Baidha’ Tiour Sawda’ Dar Azmena
Mohammed al-Rahbi Hitan Sharifa (Sharifa’s whales) Bait Al Ghasham
Hamoud al-Shukaili Sarkha Wahida La Takfi (One cry is not enough) Al Intishar Al Arabi
Saleh al-Ameri Firjar al-Ra‘i (The shepherd’s compass) Al Intishar Al Arabi
Salem Al Towaih Hadd al-Shouf (The limit of the Shouf) Al Intishar Al Arabi
Mohammed Al Harthy Aba’d Men Zinzibar Dar Sarqyat
Yacoub al-Khanbashi Audat al-Tha’ir (The rebel’s return) Al Intishar Al Arabi
Badria al-Shehhi Karma al-Dhib (Wolf karma) Dar Soual
David Buss and Cindy Meston Al-Nisa’: Al-Wuquf Ala al-Dawafi‘ al-Jinsiya min al-Thar Ila al-Mughamara (Women: Understanding sexual motivations from revenge to adventure) Al-Moqdeen Publications
Salem Hamid Banadiq al-Nabi’ (The guns of the Prophet) Sutur
Haidar Haidar Walima li A’shab al-Bahr (A feast for the seaweed) Dar Ward for Publishing and Distribution
Abdulrazzaq al-Jubran Lusus Allah (God’s thieves) Noon Publishing
  Inqilab al-Maabad (The overthrow of the temple) Noon Publishing
  Mubaghghi al-Maabad (The temple brothel) Noon Publishing
Abdelaziz Baraka Sakin Samehani Maskeliani

Previous editions of the Muscat International Book Fair have seen numerous cases of books being banned and confiscated, and this year once again, despite the current Sultan of Oman, Haithan bin Tareq, promising an era of free expression, the Book Fair’s management team pursued the same policy of banning and confiscation. 

This comes at a time of increasing repression of free speech in a state long known to be one of the world’s most secretive.  It comes as a consequence of the opposition that flourished for a short time during the events of 2011 and beyond, when rampant corruption in the state was exposed, and writers criticised various forms of political, social and sectarian tyranny. 

Behind all of this stands the security apparatus that runs the country’s affairs with the same old mentality of concealing information from the public and brainwashing the majority by means of the local media, using its traditional elements planted in government, cultural and religious institutions to achieve its purposes.