Across the Arab region, writing can sometimes be a risky profession, particularly when controversial topics - sex, politics, and religion - are addressed.
Defying the perils that come with publishing one's thoughts openly, many writers from across the region have continued to defy censorship and intimidation.
Here are some examples:
1. Metro: A Story of Cairo - by Magdy El Shafee
Magdy El Shafee’s book is the first graphic novel that sharply depicts the suffering of Egyptians under the presidency of Hosni Mubarak.
It was banned in 2008 and all its copies were seized by authorities. Both the author and the publisher were arrested and fined.
Luckily, the ban was lifted in 2013.
2. The Children of Gebelawi - by Naguib Mahfouz
This novel first appeared back in 1959 as a series in the daily newspaper, Al-Ahram. Of course, religious authorities expressed their opposition, and its publication in Egypt was immediately forbidden. It was later printed in Lebanon in 1967.
In his book, Mahfouz highlights the three monotheistic Abrahamic religions’ intertwined history in the form of a story.
When Mahfouz was nominated for a Nobel Prize, the book regained attention. Mahfouz, who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1988, would become the victim of a vicious attack six years later.
According to the New York Times, Mahfouz was stabbed several times in the neck as he was leaving his Cairo apartment in 1994. He survived, but his right upper limb was permanently affected by damaged nerves, which left him unable to write for more than a few minutes a day.
3. A Banquet of Seaweed - by Haidar Haidar
A book that tackles gender issues, the conditions of women in a patriarchal society, dictatorship, and liberalism? That’s definitely going to be on this list.
Their demands were answered after the university’s students led a protest calling for the book’s ban as well.
4. Crime in Ramallah - by Abbad Yahya
Probably the latest book to be banned, Crime in Ramallah describes the life of millennials in Palestine.
It was banned in February 2017 because the book, as Palestinian Attorney General Ahmed Barak puts it, contains “indecent texts and terms that threaten morality and public decency, which could affect the population, in particular minors.”
The book’s publisher was arrested and released after interrogation, and Yahya was summoned from abroad for questioning.
Ali Ahmad Said Esber, more known by the pen name, Adonis, is considered one of the most controversial and influential Arab poets.
His poems mainly criticize Islam's traditions and values. Accusing him of being “a warrior against Islam” and “an infidel," Egyptian Salafi sheikh, Mohamad Said Raslan released a fatwa in which he deemed the killing of the Syrian author halal, demanding his books be taken off the shelves.
In 2013, his books were burned in Algeria and several other Arab countries. He remains one of the “greatest living poets in the Arab World.”
6. Nasr Abu Zayd
Being a liberal theologian in Islam, Nasr Abu Zayd's writings caused controversy in Egypt, leading many conservative Muslim scholars to sue him.
As a result, he was forced to divorce his wife since he was declared an 'apostate.'
He would go into exile in Spain, then The Netherlands, before finally returning to Egypt in secret where he passed away in 2010.