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End of Moammar Kadafi's book bans celebrated in Libya

November 16, 2011 |  2:42 pm


The protests and uprising that led to the eventual fall of Moammar Kadafi have led to significant changes in Libya, some as yet to be fully played out. One thing is certain: Longstanding censorship rules have been removed. That happened Monday, commemorated by a ceremony at the Royal Palace in Tripoli, the Libyan capital.

Tables were piled high with once-banned books as political hopefuls, returning expats and intellectuals gathered to celebrate the unbanning. The Toronto Star reports:

The palace, converted to a library and museum during Gadhafi’s post-royalist rule, grew quiet as half a dozen speakers took turns remembering the dead and wounded that sacrificed for this day.

“Here in this historic place, knowledge was banned. The previous regime called it a national library, but it was more like an indoctrination centre to control our thinking,” said Dr. Salah Abdallah Rajeb al-Aghab, a senior official with the Libyan government archeology section.

“This place was used to distort culture. It was used to terrorize. And so this is the proper place to say Libya now is ready to embrace knowledge and thought without limits.”

Among the attendees was journalist and human rights activist Hassan al-Amin, one of the Gadhafi regime’s sharpest critics during his years of exile in London, who shared a bittersweet swirl of emotions as the books were revealed.

“This is a major moment for us because this is where we reclaim our intellectual freedom. We say goodbye to an era where free thinking was forbidden, where ideas were dangerous,” Amin told the Star.

Books that were unbanned included Arabic-laguage versions of "The Secret Life of Saddam Hussein," "The CIA Files of Arab Rulers" and "Sex in the Arab World." Those and many more are on display the rest of this week at a public book fair sponsored by the newly formed Society For New Libyan Horizons and the Tripoli Revolutionary Brigade.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Soldiers loyal to Libya's Transitional National Council remove posters of Moammar Kadafi in Tripoli on Oct. 15. Credit: Marco Longari /AFP/Getty Images