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.