Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Bombing of Iraqi Book Mart

This wasn't even the worst atrocity to happen in the last couple of days in Iraq, but I dare say its one Loyal Readers can relate to best: the BBC reports on the bombing of the Baghdad book mart. After all, we meet in a bookstore, we linger over the "New Arrivals" table on the way out, we visit the neighboring cafes and theaters in our own book district, looking for a bit of insight or escapism. We can put ourselves there. The BBC offers a little slideshow of Mutanabbi Street in better times and here's an NPR audio report from 2003 focusing on the dangers of selling banned books during the Saddam Hussein era. Then there is this Washington Post article from 2006 detailing the post-war deterioration of the market,
"It is the lungs that I breathe with," said Zaien Ahmad al-Nakshabandi, another bookseller. "I'm choked now."
Orion has pictures and description of the literary hangout, Sh'ah Bander Café, now destroyed according to the New York Times. Still, in all this tragedy, we find an optimist,

“Those terrorists do not represent Islam,” said Wissam Arif, 45, an engineer and eager browser of the book market. “They are fighting science. They hate the light of science and scientists. Haven’t they killed hundreds of prophets and intellectuals?

“Yesterday they killed the prophets and today they are killing the books. But hopefully the just, the science and the light will win. We’ll be patient until we achieve victory.”

For more courage resilience in the face of overwhelming odds, see the story of Alia Muhammad Baker, whose story is related in two children's books: The Librarian of Basra and Alia's Mission.

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