Erbil book fair draws thousands, reflects Kurdish gains

By Ögmundur Jónsson
April 22, 2019
Militant/Ögmundur Jónsson

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region, Iraq — The 10-day-long 14th Erbil International Book Fair opened here April 3, attracting tens of thousands of people seeking novels, poetry and books on science and technology, religion and philosophy, social sciences and politics. The annual cultural event, attended this year by some 300 publishers from 21 countries, is a conquest of advances in the struggle for Kurdish national rights over the past quarter century, as well as broader political and cultural openings in Iraq and the region.

Along with Erbil residents, many people traveled to the fair from other parts of the Kurdish Region, such as Duhok, Sulaymaniyah, Ranya and other cities and towns; from Kirkuk, a disputed city that was under Kurdish control before being militarily wrested by the Iraqi government in December 2017; as well as from Baghdad, Basra and other parts of Iraq. Others who came to the fair live in Erbil after fleeing Islamic State tyranny in Mosul and elsewhere, or the destruction wrought by the war against IS carried out by Iraqi and Kurdish forces backed by U.S. air raids.

Book presentations and panel discussions have addressed social and political questions, such as discrimination against religious and national minorities and struggles for women’s rights.

Pathfinder Books, London, is participating for the third time. Many who visited the stand in previous years returned, knowing they would find books that provide a working-class perspective on the unfolding crisis of world capitalism and lessons from history for today’s struggles — as well as volunteers eager to exchange experiences and opinions.

As of April 9, 832 Pathfinder books have been sold including 134 copies of Are They Rich Because They’re Smart: Class, Privilege, and Learning under Capitalism, the top seller, and 37 copies of In Defense of the US Working Class.