Following the distressing police breakup of the bookstalls on Nabi Daniel Street in Alexandria earlier this month, we learn that the Baghdad Municipality similarly dismantled bookstalls along al-Mutanabbi Street in the Iraqi capital last week. Again, the excuse is one of licensing violations. Again it is the readers who are victimized. The parallels though — a street of bookstalls selling all manner of books and well known as the place to go to find unusual and hard to find volumes — seems all too familiar.
Neither instance was, overtly at least, aimed at the books themselves. Ostensibly they are about licensing, but the power to license, like the power to tax, is ultimately the power to censor.