During the escalation of tensions in Egypt on Friday, police ransacked the offices of the American University in Cairo Press, a major force for academic publishing in and about the Middle East.
While most of the American University in Cairo is located in a new office well outside the center of the city, the press offices overlook Tahrir Square, which has been a central site both for protests and for police attempts to crack down on the protests. (Classes at the main campus have been suspended, but the university announced Sunday that they would resume on Monday, Feb. 13).
Neil Hewison, editorial director of the press, posted an account of experiences there on the blog of Oxford University Press (which is the North American distributor for American University in Cairo Press). His post about Friday's events said: "Our AUC Press offices were trashed on Friday. The police had broken into the AUC to use the roof of our wing to fire on protesters at the junction of Sheikh Rihan and Qasr al-Aini (we found empty CS canisters and shotgun cartridges up there). And persons unknown ransacked our rooms. Drawers and files emptied, windows broken, cupboards and computers smashed. But it could have been much worse. Meanwhile, the violence may get worse before it gets better."
Mark Linz, director of the press, said via e-mail on Saturday that there had been no staff injuries, and that the staff are working to clean up and to resume normal operations. Linz said he believed that the press was a random target and that the police were not seeking out the publisher. Rather, he said that the destruction was part of a path that led the police eventually to the roof of the building, which was used to exchange rocks and tear gas with protesters.
The press, which last month marked its 50th anniversary, focuses on Arabic literature and culture, Egypt and the Middle East. Linz said that it has more than 200 recent titles on Egyptian and Middle East political, economic and social issues.
Asked to recommend recent works that would be of help to those interested in better understanding the current turmoil in Egypt, Linz suggested the following:
- On the State of Egypt, forthcoming this month, by Alaa Al Aswany.
- The Yacoubian Building, by Alaa Al Aswany.
- Egypt in the Era of Hosni Mubarak 1981-2010, forthcoming in March, by Galal Amin.
- Whatever Happened to the Egyptians, by Galal Amin.
- The Changing Middle East, by Bahgat Korany.
- Cairo Contested, by Diane Singerman.
- Egypt's Culture Wars, by Samia Mehrez.