Iraqi Book Festival Draws Thousands

"We are fighting the forces of darkness that are trying to spread the ideology of backwardness and terrorism, and this initiative is a reaction to backwardness and ignorance." He asserted that the presence of thousands of Iraqis at the book festival under such difficult circumstances highlights their desire that life should continue in the face of death.

A number of Iraqi and Arab publishing houses contributed to the festival this year, such as al-Rousoum, al-Mada, Adnan and the United Arab Emirates’ Dar Noun, which contributed a number of books. As for the large number of books, Hussein told Al-Monitor that they were collected from individuals and through donations that were supervised by the festival’s organizers on Mutanabbi Street in Baghdad. This year, the festival included a section on e-books that were copied onto CDs and distributed to those who were interested.

It seems that the Iraqis have not forgotten that Baghdad was once a city of enlightenment that helped their civilization to be disseminated across the world. By taking part in the reading festival, Iraqis have expressed their desire for Baghdad's role to be restored. Despite the insecurity and deployment of military units on outer roads, a number of Iraqis came from the provinces outside the capital to attend this year's festival.

Qasim, a student and civil activist, expressed her joy that a large number of youth came from all of Iraq’s provinces to attend the festival. In a phone interview with Al-Monitor, she said, “The large number of youth at this event gives us hope that Baghdad will not lose its civil character, and that once again it will be the city of culture and civilization.” For the third year in a row, Qasim attended the festival, because, as she said, she has nostalgia for the cultural boom era that prevailed in Iraq’s past, and said this festival reminds her of that era.

Given the attention from cultural and social circles, the festival is expected to create new prospects. The organizers have begun to apply this experience to other Iraqi cities, too. Last year and earlier this year, six reading events titled "I'm Iraqi, I read books" were held in a number of cities in southern Iraq.

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