Security forces blocked the organisers of the Al-Fan Midan (Art is a Square) street festival from setting up in Abdeen Square Friday, just two weeks after the Cairo-based non-profit secured an agreement with the Ministry of Culture guaranteeing government clearance to put on a monthly event featuring music, art and theatrical performances.
Security forces have attempted to shut down the street festival at least three times since it was founded in 2011.
The organisers said they obtained permission from Cairo governorate 10 days before the event, in a statement published on Al-Fan Midan‘s Facebook page. The group used the same procedure it has followed during the past three years.
Security forces told the organisers that they must obtain permission from the Abdeen Police Station to hold the event in addition to clearing it with the governorate, according to the statement. At the police station, officials expressed concern about security conditions because the event would take place nearby the Abdeen Palace in Downtown Cairo.
Al-Fan Midan’s organisers contend, however, that the presidency, which directly controls Abdeen Palace security forces, cancelled the event because one of the event speakers “insulted” the military and the police forces in last month’s event.
After appealing to the Ministry of Culture, Al-Fan Midan has obtained permission to hold the festival next Saturday, according to the statement. Minister of Culture Gaber Asfour said palace security forces have agreed not to interfere.
In an attempt to give the public “the right to practice all types of art in the streets freely, without any ban from the state”, Al-Fan Midan has hosted free cultural events since its launch in April 2011.
Throughout the past three years, the festival has faced obstacles.
In April 2014, “Al-Fan Midan” in Alexandria was dispersed by police forces. The organisers and a sound technician were also arrested after accusing them of “not having permission to organise the event and violating the Protest Law”. The festival was put on hold for two months in 2013 for “security reasons”, after the eruption of clashes between protestors against the former president Mohamed Morsi and his supporters.