Censorpedia: An Interactive Database of Censorship Incidents

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Featured Case: Crime in Ramallah

Date: 2017

Region: Middle East

Subject: Political/Economic/Social Opinion

Medium: Literature


Artist: Abbad Yahya

Confronting Bodies: Palestinian Attorney General

Dates of Action: February 2017

Location: Palestine

Description of Artwork: Crime in Ramallah is the fourth book by novelist Abbad Yahya. It follows the lives of three young Palestinian men, one of whom is gay, caught up in the murder of a young woman in the city of Ramallah.

The Incident: The novel's inclusion of sex, masturbation and homosexuality made it controversial. The Palestinian Attorney General banned the book, moving to prosecute writer Abbad Yahya, banning his novel and accusing him of threatening morality and public decency, is a gross violation of his right to freedom of expression.

Since the launch of the AG’s investigation, Yahya has been the victim of a hate campaign on social media, receiving death threats; copies of his novel were reportedly burnt in the Gaza strip.

Results of Incident: Abbad Yahya remained in Qatar following the confiscation of his book, as he feared that he would be arrested if he returned home. English PEN released a statement supporting the author, pointing out the problematic censoring actions of the Palestinian government. In addition to this statement, The department of culture and information of the Palestine Liberation Organization also condemned the actions of the Attorney General's office, saying that it "opens the door for an endless censorship, which violates freedom of expression and right to creative writing."

A book club in the West Bank city of Nablus canceled a public discussion on Crime in Ramallah after its members received anonymous death threats.

Hamas also condemned the novel, and the head of the Palestinian writers' union criticized it. However, prominent Palestinian intellectuals have demanded that the ban be rescinded.

Source: Palestine: Abbad Yahya under investigation for ‘threatening morality’ and has books banned, English PEN Statement

PEN Issues Statement About Case Against Palestinian Author Abbad Yahya and His ‘Crime in Ramallah’, ArabLit, Feb 2, 2017

Palestinian authorities ban 'Crime in Ramallah' novel over 'indecency', The New Arab, 2/8/2017

Palestinian Authority Bans Novel for ‘Threatening Morality and Public Decency’, Global Voices,14 February 2017

Facing Death Threats And A Ban On His Novel, A Palestinian Author Flees, NPR, April 1, 2017

An excerpt from Crime in Ramallah: Noor’s Story, Words Without Borders Magazine, July 2017 issue

What is Censorpedia?

Censorpedia is a crowdsourced online database of censorship cases within the arts and in culture. It is aimed at those researching censorship, at activists working for freedom of expression, and at artists and other cultural producers whose expression has been subject to censorship or attempted censorship.

Censorpedia documents censorship incidents by providing the who, what, when, where, and why. By providing a repository of information about what is vulnerable to censorship and about the strategies and tactics that have defeated previous’ censorship attempts, Censorpedia aids the fight for free expression.

Researchers can search for a specific case, year, or keyword using the search box, as well as browse by medium, by grounds for censorship, or explore a random case.

Activists can search for ongoing cases or contribute a case that is ongoing or recently resolved.

Artists and cultural producers are similarly invited to add cases they are directly involved with or are familiar with firsthand.

Censorpedia builds on the landmark 1994 art project The File Room, initiated by Muntadas.

For more information about censorship visit our Annotated Bibliography

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