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Book Festival Brings Light to Iraqis Amidst Political Blackout

Book Festival Brings Light to Iraqis Amidst Political Blackout

Tuesday, 4 September, 2018 - 09:15
Iraqis attending the “I'm Iraqi, I read” 2018, Asharq Al-Awsat
Baghdad- Fadil Nashmi
Despite a months-on-end darkness drowning Iraqi politics, the conflict-torn nation successfully launched the sixth annual “I'm Iraqi, I read” book festival, sparking a glimmer of hope for masses attending from different cultural backgrounds and age groups.

First held in Baghdad in September 2012, the festival aims to promote a general culture of reading among different social groups, especially youth. For 2018, the events are held in three different governorates.

“I'm Iraqi ... I read” in 2018 marks the first time Mosul, Iraq’s major northern city which still suffers from effects of war with terror group ISIS, joins in for the activities. Other provinces such as Nineveh and Maysan also partook in this year's festival.

According to festival organizers, such sociocultural activity boosts reading rates among Iraqis across the board. They also said that the event acts as a “forum promoting awareness among the poorer segments of society that haven’t received sufficient education and classes of readers who cannot afford the latest books.”

Librarians and various social figures donate books for free giveaways at the event.

Organizers said that over 40,000 books from different genres were offered to festival goers this year. Addressing former concerns of inequality when it comes to handing out donated books, organizers said that the 2018 festival launched with a special delivery system that ensures all attendees an equal chance at procuring at least a single free read.

In past festivals, some festival goers would walk away with droves of free books leaving others empty-handed.

“The preparatory period for the festival, with more than 70 volunteers from Baghdad, 30 in Maysan and 50 in Mosul working on organization efforts, started in early July and lasted until the day of launch,” Iraqi activist Sattar Awwad told Asharq Al-Awsat.

More on organization efforts, Awwad explained that volunteers also covered advertising for the event and meeting with relevant institutions.

“Volunteering teams put together promotional advertisements about the festival across all regions, and held meetings with publishing houses, readers and libraries in various regions,” said Awwad.

The festival's organization committee received donations in the form of old and used books from book owners who wished to take part in book exchanges.

Iraqi novelist Ahmad al-Saadawi took to Facebook on the need to participate in the cultural activity and expressed the important role played by reading and other social activities. Similarly, Iraqi actor Mekdad Abdul Rida called on young people to attended the festival.

It is worth noting that the festival is not limited to reading promotion, but also incorporates support for other disciplines such as music, painting, and sculpting.

The outdoor event held live readings of children's books and a best reader competition.

In Maysan, the festival's organizers dedicated seven awards to outstanding young readers.

“The event speaks volumes to the will of Iraqi youth in affirming that there is a different face to living in Iraq, far from the environment drawn up by politicians, a life full of activity and a love for knowledge, culture, and art,” media and social activist Jumana Mumtaz al-Bijari told Asharq Al-Awsat.

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