Al-Mutanabbi Street Bookstalls Bulldozed

Less than two weeks after al-Nabi Daniel Street bookstalls were roughly dismantled by Egyptian state security, Baghdad’s al-Mutanabbi Street was faced with a similar raid:

“Al Mutanabbi Street,” by Art Hazelwood.

According to AlMonitor: “On September 17, bulldozers guarded by armed soldiers stormed the street late at night and smashed the wooden stalls used by booksellers for displaying and selling their books.”

The move came just as bookselling business on the street was picking up again, following an initiative called “I read… I am Iraqi,” which AlMonitor said was a “youth campaign to achieve reconciliation with books and expand the [Iraqi] reader base to include youth groups outside the elite.”

Bookselling and book-buying on al-Mutanabbi has surged back against fires, raids, and the enormous and tragic bombing in March of 2007. Now, apparently the government is trying to limit sidewalk bookselling on the street to Fridays. According to AlMonitor:

Since the raid, the street has witnessed a heavy presence of security elements. Some vendors said they saw soldiers place materials for exhibiting books under bulldozers to be crushed. According to Iraqi researcher and journalist Shamkhi Jabr, the Municipality of Baghdad claims that it is removing “violations” from the street. Jabr wrote on Facebook that they are destroying the street and obstructing cultural activity within it.

Thanks to Al-Mutanabbi Starts Here co-editor Beau Beausoleil for passing along this story.


  1. When books and booksellers multiply so do ideas and dreams, and the municipal government of Baghdad is uncomfortable with that. This is one more shameful act from a corrupt government that is
    itching to return to the time of the censors!! But I know that the poets, writers, and artists of Baghdad’s al-Mutanabbi Street will not be silent in the face of this, nor will this project, and its members who stand with them.

    If they cannot control books, writers, artists, and booksellers, they will simply destroy them.
    This project stands in solidarity with the Poets, Printers, Artists, Writers, and Readers of Baghdad and any other threatened cultural community in the Near or Middle East.
    And that solidarity holds no boundary, for wherever you are reading this – it is there that al-Mutanabbi Street starts.

    1. In both cases- Nabi Daniel and Mutannabi-that the stalls should be removed and the books disappear from the streets is very sad. What shocks is the violence of the act. Why?

      1. Mishka, I’m going to assume that, on the one hand, they’re just treating the book vendors like they would any street vendor: tissue packets, roasted corn, cheap Chinese shibshib. ALL vendors need to be treated like human beings and their stock treated like it matters. And then, on the other hand, I guess I also have to assume that there is not a proper respect for books in either government.

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