The Atlantic

Egypt's War on Books

How far will Abdel Fattah el-Sisi go to stifle dissent?
Source: Khaled Desouki / AFP / Getty / Nils Z / Shutterstock / Zak Bickel / The Atlantic

There was once a time when school children would hang out at the Al-Karama library in Cairo’s bustling, impoverished Dar El Salam neighborhood. They sought escape from the polluted drudgery of slum life, or just a safe space to finish their homework. But for almost a year now, the library’s decrepit maroon garage door has been rolled shut: In December 2016, Egyptian security forces raided the library and three of its sister branches after deeming them seditious spaces.

The government’s assessment of the libraries stemmed largely from the work of their founder, Gamal Eid, a human-rights lawyer with a high, lilting voice. After Egypt’s cataclysmic revolution in 2011, Eid used his own money to open the library and five others like it.

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