Books Gaddafi banned sell well in rebel-held Libya

Wed May 11, 2011 11:52am GMT

By Mohammed Abbas

BENGHAZI, Libya (Reuters) - The revolution that swept Muammar Gaddafi from power in east Libya has been a bonanza for bookstores as curious readers stock up on titles banned during his decades-long rule.

Newly uncensored works on history and religion and books by opposition exiles are most popular, say booksellers in the eastern rebel stronghold of Benghazi.

"People are thirsty for knowledge, to know about their history," said bookseller Yusuf al-Muahaishi, who said sales had doubled since mass protests prised much of east Libya from Gaddafi's grip in mid-February.

"Books about the history of Libya were banned or censored. They mostly had to be about Gaddafi," Muahaishi said as he served customers at the al Tamour bookshop in central Benghazi.

Gaddafi is still in power in the capital Tripoli and most of western Libya despite airstrikes by NATO forces. Rebel fighters have made little headway after months of fighting.

Under Gaddafi's four-decade rule, opposition was crushed, power was concentrated in his hands and the education system used to promote his Third Universal Theory, which sought to steer a course between Islam and Socialism.

Gaddafi banned political parties and set up a system for direct rule by citizens via town hall committees. Critics say the committees had no power in his centralised, authoritarian state and were mere channels for his personal patronage.

Booksellers say Gaddafi's drive to promote his thoughts and philosophy -- partly through his own authorised bestseller, the infamous "Green Book" -- meant heavy censorship or the banning of books with other points of view.   Continued...

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