Print Edition | Issue 180
By the end of a violent day marked with blood and death in the besieged city of Douma in Damascus Suburbs, staff of Bytul-Hikma library in collaboration with “Youth towards Islamic Society”, launched a second book fair in the besieged Ghouta (Suburbs), entitled “Book and Spring II”, on Tuesday, July 28.
The motive to re-organize a second book fair in the area, according to Hiba, is to motivate people to read and think despite all Assad attempts to deprive them of that, amid a war that spreads none but ignorance.
Hiba, a member of Bytul-Hikma board of directors, added “education is our only salvation. This is what we’d like to convey through the book fair”.
Similarly, Jihad, a member of “Youth towards Islamic Society”, believes that “a book fair is one of the essential means to raise awareness and to address the difficulties and obstacles to education the entire generation in Ghouta face”, noting the importance of reading, especially that it is a means to “compensate for the education they’ve missed”.
Managers of the book fair recently received additional support from “The Day After” enabling them to further reduce prices. “We competitively priced books; discounts reach 50% of the books’ original price we paid for, so that books are affordable to the general public here”, said Jihad.
What distinguishes this year’s fair from last year’s is replacing the natural flower and plant fair with a “Flowers of Intellect”, as Jihad said because “flowers blooming today are people’s ideas and creativities. Thus, the book fair is held along with temporary display of paintings, architectural designs, and short stories competing in a contest announced about a month ago”.
The deteriorating security situation in Ghouta has posed a challenge to the library’s team, to the work and to the visitors of the fair, according to Sana, member of the board of directors. “In addition to security concerns and difficulties in generating power, siege is challenging us in another way. Not many books are available in Ghouta; moreover, people burn books as a fuel for heat or cooking”, said Sana “however, we’ve contacted owners of bookshops and librarians to secure additional books for the fair, and we’ve managed to meet the people’s expectations”.
The contest captured people’s attention as well, and the items displayed are appreciated by the visitors, said Ms. Sana; however, participation in the contest was not as popular as expected, due to stress and lack of safety and sense of settlement.
Hiba attributed the limited participation to people’s concerns about making their living. “People are currently concerned about making a living more than anything else; besides this type of contests is new to them. Yet I believe that to persist in promoting similar ideas will gradually affect our society positively”.
“Challenging siege and holding such activates is a success in itself” said a visitor of the fair, who preferred anonymity, “The books are very rich and diverse compared to the war and siege we live under”.
The visitor who works as teacher in the besieged city, noted it is not only food supplies they are deprived of; “the regime has prevented educational materials as well”.
Some may doubt how the besieged people who barely make enough to earn their bread are willing or eager to read, but the teacher believes otherwise. “During wars we need to bring art and creativity into focus; organizers of the fair and of the contest have succeeded in doing so”, said the teacher lauding the “creative” and “artistic” design of the place. “It shows deep appreciation of books and their value. The fair is beautiful in every way; beauty amid the ugliness of war is a virtue”.