by Savan Abdalrahman – Iraqi, Kurdistan
The Sulaymaniyah International Book Fair is taking place for the second time. Surprisingly, despite the widespread coronavirus pandemic in Iraqi Kurdistan, people have visited the library in droves to attend it, whilst using protection masks.
Many sources, from local to international publications, can be accessed through the library and texts are available in several languages. Via the library, readers can access a multitude of source texts and articles. This is the second year of the book fair and reportedly, nearly five million books were made accessible to readers. Half of the sources came from outside the country. The book fair continues and it is open daily from 10:00am to 6:00 pm.
Sauqi Omer, the manager of the Sulaymaniyah International Book Fair, says: “This is a festival where Kurds from all four parts of Kurdistan can meet. This is a carnival. Kurds from exile also participated in the book fair and also from African and Arabic states as well. From the neighbouring states, we have Iran and Turkey. From the Arabic states, we have Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, Doha and Libya. From the European states, we have Belgium, Canada, Denmark and Holland.
The owners of the publication houses that are participating in the book fair state that activities such as these are important to reunite readers with books. Rawaz Hama Salih, the director of Xazalnus publishing house, says that the “existence of such book fairs is important. But the question is how to reach the universal goal of an exhibition. We need to focus directly on social life and try to change it. We need to take steps, with each strategic plan, to promote reading as a cultural resource”.
Another positive side of book fairs is that they offer discounts on books which encourages readers to buy their favourite books. A random reader we met at the book fair, Niga Hardi, said: “This is a very good opportunity because many publications are available at discounted prices and I can buy the books cheaper than before”.
Many activities such as seminars, poetry readings and presentations took place during the book fair. Poetry readings by Kajal Ahmed and Twana Amin, for example, took place and there was a seminar which focused on the influence of reading on the mind. Farhad Pirbal, a Kurdish novelist and poet, observed the following: “I noticed that most of the visitors are young people. This delights me and shows that Sulaymaniyah is still young and vibrant. I feel like, from now on, youth are leading initiatives in the city. I hope that the Kurds try and take the opportunities to lead the country”.
Bala Darwesh, a university student, in a statement with NRT channel stated that: “Today is like ‘student’s day’ for readers. I came here to search for my favourite book. This book fair is an important event, especially during this difficult time that we are going through. It gives us a glimmer of hope that readers still exist”. Concerning reading habits, she said: “Everyone starts reading from novels and stories, but gradually a person needs to go further and dive deeper. So now, I’m searching for books on psychoanalysis such as by Sigmund Freud and also on books focusing on the Greek mythologies”.