Ab­dulla Agrin: “I’ve do­nated my books to pub­lic li­braries on times oc­ca­sions.”

The Kurdish Globe - - NEWS -

Ab­dulla Agrin is one of those writ­ers and in­tel­lec­tu­als who has brought open­ness to the world of read­ing and writ­ing sto­ries and con­duct­ing re­search through books. He was born in 1942 in Ch­warbagh, Sle­many. His date of birth was changed to 1949 to avoid con­scrip­tion, as was of­ten done at that time.

There is a good deal to say about this quiet man who has served his na­tion so de­vot­edly. He in­her­ited a good deal of cul­ture and ex­pe­ri­ence from his grand­fa­ther. As he says, his grand­fa­ther was the Kur­dish poet, Mahwi (18301907), and he has a large col­lec­tion of his books, manuscripts and po­etry in his home. Talk­ing about 1868, when the re­gion was still un­der Ot­toman rule, he says Sul­tan Ab­dul-Hameed or­dered a house and a khanaqa to be built for his grand­fa­ther. "I was born and grew up in that house. My un­cle Saeed was also in­ter­ested in po­ems and re­li­gious sources, and a lot of peo­ple would come to visit the khanaqa of my grand­fa­ther. I grew up among those peo­ple; I would go to the di­van of my grand­fa­ther and un­cle and lis­ten to po­ems and talk about books, read­ing and po­ems."

Ab­dulla Agrin started his stud­ies late. Hav­ing grad­u­ated from the In­dus­trial In­sti­tute, he went to the Col­lege of Arts and gained an MA and Ph.D. in Kur­dish lit­er­a­ture. Now, in ad­di­tion to his po­lit­i­cal work, he is an in­struc­tor at the Col­lege of Arts, and a mem­ber of the Kur­dish Lan­guage depart­ment at the Univer­sity of Sala­hadin. Re­gard­ing his in­ter­est in col­lect- ing books, he says: "It's im­por­tant for me to have books in my house, be­cause when peo­ple visit you and see that your house is full of books, they will know the house­hold is an in­tel­lec­tual one. I had some books in a box once, but when we saw them, we read them from cover to cover."

He has a story to tell about the day he bought a book for the first time. "I was 11 years old when I went to school in 1952. Our school was in a mosque. There was a boy there called Ka­mal Ab­dul­lah, who was blind in one eye. His par­ents were dead and he lived with his grand­fa­ther. He told me once that he had a book by Mahwi. When he brought it to show me, it turned out to be the four col­lec­tions of Salim, Kurdi, Nali and Mahwi, the four Kur­dish po­ets. He asked if I wanted to buy them, and we agreed on a price of 100 Fils. Since I couldn't ask my fa­ther for the money, I asked my mother, who gave me 90 Fils the next day. And that’s how I got to buy the four books. I still have the Mahwi vol­ume; some peo­ple took it away from me once, but I got it back and it’s safe with me now. It was printed in 1922, and the other three in 1934.

I started col­lect­ing more books in 1957, start­ing with Mo­hammed Mo­har­ram's sto­ries and the mag­a­zines of Payam and Hataw. In 1958, I had about 24 books. I was in­volved with the pub­li­ca­tions of the Stu­dent Union of Kur­dis­tan, and em­barked on po­lit­i­cal ac­tiv­i­ties through this or­ga­ni­za­tion. Later, I worked for KAJIK and PA­SOK. When Mustafa Barzani started the Kur­dish rev­o­lu­tion in 1961, I had some po­lit­i­cal books and pub­li­ca­tions, which I put in a can which I hid in the walls for fear of the Regime. It con­tained a beau­ti­ful gift with a hand-writ­ten slo­gan on it: “Yan Kur­dis­tan Yan Na­man”.

One of the most dif­fi­cult things about col­lect­ing books is fear of the au­thor­i­ties and the army. The Baath regime ar­rested many peo­ple for keep­ing even or­di­nary books, which is why the books Dr. Ab­dulla Agrin hid in a can in the wall also ended up be­ing burned. "It was in 1968 when I was in Bagh­dad. The army was at­tack­ing Kur­dis­tan and the peo­ple in the house in Sle­many were afraid they would be pun­ished if books were found in their house. When they were re­pair­ing the wall of Mahwi's house, they ac­ci­dently found the can cov­ered with mud. They thought it might be Li­ras from Mahwi’s era, so they opened it one night. When they opened it and saw the books, they burnt them soon af­ter." Which is how Agrin's books came to be burned.

The books he be­gan col­lect­ing in 1968 were mostly about na­tional mat­ters, but there were also mag­a­zines and ar­ti­cles. Af­ter the agree­ment signed on 11 March 1971, I built a house in the Shekh Mi­hi­adeen neigh­bor­hood and de­voted a room to a li­brary. When I re­turned to the moun­tains in 1974-1975 and joined the rev­o­lu­tion, I worked on the Voice of Iraqi Kur­dis­tan. Af­ter the rev­o­lu­tion, I was ex­iled to Sa­mawa prov­ince in the south of Iraq for five years. Dur­ing that time, Ahmed Hardi, the Kur­dish poet, gave me his books when he joined the rev­o­lu­tion. Luck­ily I man­aged to ar­range to have the books kept safe on that oc­ca­sion. I had about 6 000 books by this time.

Af­ter the up­ris­ing, he served in the PA­SOK lead­er­ship and then in Yak­grtin party be­fore join­ing the PDK. He was both the ed­i­tor of the Kur­dis­tan Front and head of the PDK’s depart­ment of re­la­tions. Cur­rently, he heads the PDK re­search cen­ter and teach­ers at univer­sity, but he is also a lit­er­a­ture spe­cial­ist who loves sto­ries above all else. Af­ter he moved to Er­bil, he pre­sented all his books— 12 000 vol­umes in all--to Sle­many pub­lic li­brary.

Af­ter es­tab­lish­ing a li­brary in Er­bil, he once again pre­sented books to the cen­tral li­brary of Sala­hadin Univer­sity and to the li­brary of the Col­lege of Arts. He has also pre­sented over 700 books to the PDK li­brary.

In a visit to his cur­rent home in Er­bil, we were shown his small li­brary there, which con­tains only spe­cial­ized books and a large num­ber of doc­u­men­tary cas­settes, his­tor­i­cal pho­tos, manuscripts and letters. He says that he will con­tinue to col­lect the books that come his way and present them to pub­lic li­braries for the pub­lic in­ter­est.

When Ab­dulla Agrin talks about books, it's like he is talk­ing about po­lit­i­cal and so­cial events. He says he al­ways urges his stu­dents to buy books and read them. It's not im­por­tant what they're in­ter­ested in or how they think, the im­por­tant thing is urg­ing young peo­ple to read. "Books are food for the mind. In­di­vid­u­als are not im­por­tant, but books and their con­tents are… be­cause I con­sider a book to be like a hu­man mind". He be­lieves that books are a source for all of science, and that ev­ery so­cial, cul­tural, eco­nom­i­cal and sci­en­tific mat­ter can be found dis­cussed in books.

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