Worrying Police Intervention in ‘El-Fann Midan’ Arts Festival in Egypt

On Saturday, August 2, security forces affiliated with the presidency refused to allow the “Art is a Public Square” festival to set up. Egypt’s new/old culture minister, Gaber Asfour, intervened, and the festival will now be held on August 9.

According to the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI):

[Early on] Saturday…August 2, the security forces, which are in charge of securing Abdeen Palace and affiliated to the presidency, refused to open A[b]deen Square for the preparations of “Art is Square” festival. They claimed that the organizers have obtained clearance from the governorate but not from Abdeen Police Station, leading to the cancellation of the festival that is scheduled to be held the first Saturday of each month.

Asfour’s office got involved, and the festival — which is so named to emphasize that “art is everybody’s right — has been rescheduled for August 9. But ANHRI doesn’t think all is good:

However, there are some indications that the authorities demand the names of the participants and organizers of the festivals as well as the programs that would be provided. Seemingly, it is a kind of the unacceptable police censorship on the freedom of art and creativity.

Indeed, Daily News Egypt reported that, “Al-Fan Midan’s organisers contend, however, that the presidency, which directly controls Abdeen Palace security forces, cancelled the event because one of the event speakers ‘insulted’ the military and the police forces in last month’s event.”

The event has run into previous roadblocks. In April of this year, an Alexandria event was dispersed by police, with organizers and a sound technician arrested on charges of violating the anti-protest law. The festival was also on hiatus for two months in 2013 after clashes between pro- and anti-Morsi protesters. In April 2012, the event was apparently attacked by thugs.

El-Fann Midan was launched in the spring of 2011, soon after the January and February revolt, and is volunteer-run with intermittent funding from the culture ministry. It has staged events in public squares throughout Egypt, including pieces by rising theatre star Laila Soliman, poetry by Zein El-Abdeen Fouad,  art by Mohamed Abla.

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