A committee from the Saudi Ministry of Culture and Information confiscated thousands of books on 4 November 2016 from the Al Rawi Café, located north of the Saudi capital Riyadh, due to most of them not having been officially approved by the ministry, reported Al Mayedeen on November 6.
Ministry spokesman Hani al Ghafily defended the move saying “the measures were in line with the ministry’s laws and regulations and were in the public interest”.
“Most of the books had not been given the required stamp of approval by the ministry,” Al Ghafily told Al Arabiya on 6 November 2016. “In a routine check, the specialised committee had found that Al Rawi Café had not sought the ministry’s permission before displaying the books.”
The ministry’s move sparked an outcry from journalists and activists on social media. Journalist Nawaf Al Qadimi explained that the café was “a cultural space and meeting place for writers, artists and intellectuals” that had a library full of a variety of books, none of which were “politically sensitive”, most of which were purchased at book fairs.
Soon after the confiscation, café management posted the following statement on Twitter, followed by before and after photos of the café: “The café is a place for intellectuals, researchers and academics to come and read; we shall strive to keep it that way. We are careful to maintain the legal status of the café.”
While activists and sympathisers offered to bring books to fill the café’s shelves back up, café management thanked them for the “generous offer”, but stated they would rather wait until the matter had been resolved with authorities.
Al Rawi Café Twitter status updates showing the café before and after the book confiscation:
» Al Mayadeen – 6 November 2016:
Saudi Arabia: Furore over the confiscation of books at Al Rawi Café
» Al Arabiya – 6 November 2016:
The reason behind why books were confiscated at Al Rawi Café
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