December 18, 2015
Saudi men kicked out of book fair for heckling female poet
by Julia Fleischaker
Amy X. Wang at Quartz reports that a heckler at the Jeddah International Book Fair had the tables turned on him when, instead of rallying the crowd against a female poet in the middle of a poetry reading, he was booed and escorted from the building.
Over the weekend, the Jeddah International Book Fair hosted Ashjan Al Hindi, a female Saudi poet who has spoken at literary events worldwide and currently serves as assistant professor in the Arabic department of King Abdulaziz University. Hindi’s reading was broken up by two men who insisted she should not be allowed to address the men in the hall, according to Saudi site Al Marsad.
The Gulf News reports that “he argued that no woman should be allowed to speak out and address the men who were sitting in the hall.” According to Wang, this YouTube video shows the heckler gesturing to the woman onstage and “asking in Arabic, ‘Are you satisfied with what is happening?’ To his disbelief, the audience responds with a resounding ‘yes.’”
The heckler, along with his co-heckler, were escorted out of the building to the cheers of the crowd. As Wang notes, it’s a small but significant occurrence, happening on the same weekend that saw Saudi women allowed to vote and run for office for the first time.
Julia Fleischaker is a former director of marketing and publicity at Melville House.