Gaber Asfour, former Egyptian minister of culture, announced yesterday that he wishes to return the Gaddafi International Award for Literature, which he was awarded last year and is valued at 150 thousand EUROS.
In a statement to Ahram Online, Asfour explained that after what is happening in Libyia and the confrontation between Libyan demonstrators and the Gaddafi regime, "it is not an honour to hold, among the prizes I gained throughout my long career, a prize bearing the name of a killer who has committed all these crimes against humanity to his own people: killing unarmed demonstrators who were demanding their simplest human rights.” He is currently looking for an appropriate way to return the prize to the "great Libyan people."
This comes days after Asfour resigned from his role as minister of culture in Ahmed Shafiq's cabinet for "health" reasons, while other sources indicate his resignation came as a result of pressure from intellectuals who objected to his acceptance of the role only days before the Egyptian President, Hosni Mubarak, stepped down after massive public protests.
Arab intellects criticised fiercely that accepting the prize was a confirmation of the legitimacy of Gaddfi's rule. At the time, it was rumoured that the Spanish writer, Juan Goytisolo, refused the prize. Asfour countered that he was awarded the prize from a respectable judging committee, and based on merits which are not related to politics. He was sure not to receive the award from Gaddafi himself or meet with him during the Egyptian Cultural week held at the Libyan capital, Tripoli, last April.
It was also said during the announcement, that Asfour merited the prize in appreciation for "his creative efforts to develop literary, thought and contributions in the enlightenment to bring about values of freedom and development, and to his extensive studies in literature and criticism about artistic images, poetry and age of novels, as well as his additions to the theories of modern literature and criticism. And also his role to encourage the cultural life throughout the Arab world and enrich it through follow-up and translation, creating bridges between Arab and international cultures."