Book exhibition dominated by Arabic books
The 2013 Erbil International Book fairshowcased millions of books in Erbil. It was hosted by the Publishing house Al-Mada and the Kurdistan Regional Government. The event (unlike previous years) was quite strict with extremist Islamic publishing houses, and their books were limited. Browsing through the books, I was bitterly disappointed. There was an overwhelming amount of religious books – varying from old religious texts to contemporary interpretations available. While I admire religious texts for their thought-provoking and sentimental value but I can’t help but feel disappointed. I didn’t attend the Book fair to buy religious books, although I do like reading about religion.
There were thousands of religious books; most of them seemed extremely similar. When I attended the book exhibition, I was pleased by the decoration, usage of space and how organized it all seemed. It was much better than previous exhibitions, which I attended in 2011. Despite this, I expected international bestsellers.
The major publishing houses from the West were not invited, or at least they did not attend. The Arabic influence in the exhibition was apparent, the Kurdish influence was not, and this was another disappointment for me. Some Arab writers have applauded this by saying this was an ‘achievement’ because both Arabs and Kurds in Iraq have felt the political tensions down to their very teeth for the past year.
I want my readers to think of the following question for this week, and I hope to receive some replies by email! Why don’t we have bestsellers in Kurdistan? If you think this is because we don’t have a culture of reading, my response would be, how can we create a culture of reading when we don’t have the right books available to them? I want our society to progress, for books to become an important part of our lives. I want to see young men and women reading literature at coffee and teashops throughout Kurdistan. We really need to push out the materialistic culture that is being shoved down our throat and promote meaningful ways of progress.
Societies progress when young thinkers are born, and through reading we can make this a possibility but this is not possible when religious books dominate book exhibitions. Most of us admire and respect religion, but that doesn’t mean religious text should dominate our thinking. In fact, religion promotes learning and acquiring knowledge, and this should be reflected in book exhibitions.