Book fair in Iraqi Kurdistan reflects regional struggles

By Ögmundur Jónsson
December 5, 2022
Militant/Ögmundur Jónsson

SULAYMANIYAH, Kurdistan Region, Iraq — Since Nov. 17, thousands have flocked to the Sulaymaniyah International Book Fair, which is being held here for the fourth time. It features books on language, history, politics, science and religion, as well as novels, poetry and children’s books.

Many booths feature books written in or translated into Kurdish, registering historic advances in the struggle of the Kurdish people for national self-determination. Some 30 million Kurds in Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey make up the largest nation in the world without their own country. Amid the upheavals caused by U.S.-led military assaults since 1990, Kurds have established an autonomous region and government in northeast Iraq.

Publishers from across the Middle East have brought books in Arabic and Farsi. Books in English are in high demand.

Pathfinder Books in London has taken part in book fairs in the Kurdistan region’s capital, Erbil, in 2017, 2018, and 2019. Pathfinder is participating for the first time in the Sulaymaniyah fair this year. More than 500 books by leaders of the communist movement have been sold midway through the 10-day event.

Many people seek out the stand for books addressing world capitalism’s growing disorder. These include top sellers Are They Rich Because They’re Smart? by U.S. Socialist Workers Party National Secretary Jack Barnes; Labor, Nature, and the Evolution of Humanity by Karl Marx, Frederick Engels, and SWP leaders George Novack and Mary-Alice Waters; The Communist Manifesto by Marx and Engels; The Jewish Question: a Marxist Interpretation by Abram Leon; and books on women’s emancipation and other aspects of working-class politics and struggle. Some visitors know Pathfinder from previous book fairs in Erbil.

The mass protests in Iran against the repressive cleric-dominated capitalist regime shape discussions here. From the start, the Kurdistan region of Iran, which borders that of Iraq, has been a center of the protests, and the Iranian government has launched a brutal crackdown there.

“The savagery of the Iranian regime is unbelievable, especially in Kurdistan and Baluchistan,” Robin Ali, a teacher, told the Militant. People in Iraqi Kurdistan “are not fully aware of the revolution taking place in Iran. We need to free our minds here. There is hope, if we learn from Kurds in Iran!”