Tue 14 Jul 2020

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Book fair held in northern Syria ,amid compelling circumstance

A visitor to the book fair "Iqra/read" in the town of Marea (Al-Shahid bookstore Facebook page)

A visitor to the book fair "Iqra/read" in the town of Marea (Al-Shahid bookstore Facebook page)

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Despite the unsettled security and military situation in most areas in northern Syria, the bad weather, and lack of basic resources, book fairs are conducted in the area.

The most recent bookfair was held in the town of Marea in the northern countryside of Aleppo.

The Iqra/ Read Book Fair completed its activities on 6 January, in the presence of senior dignitaries such as the former head of Syria’s Interim Government (SIG), the current dean of the Faculty of Medicine at Aleppo Free University, Jawad Abu Harab, and the Ministers of Justice and Economy and Finance of the SIG, Abdullah Abdul Salam and Abdul Hakim al-Masri.

Muhammad al-Najjar, the organizer of the bookfair, told Enab Baladi, that the Minister of Finance and Economy of the SIG, Abdul Hakim al-Masri, gave a lecture during the book fair in which he spoke about the current reality of the Syrian economy and the serious consequences of the devaluation of the Syrian Pound.

Various books in big numbers

Al-Najjar highlighted that the twelve-day fair book was shelved by diverse books that included the following types: religious books, Arabic-language books, Arabic-literature books, poetry books, fiction books (international, local and Arabic fiction books), general knowledge books, historical books, and children’s books.

A total of 5,000 books under 2,200 different titles, were presented in the book fair, according to al-Najjar. Al-Najjar emphasized that the rich diversity of books in their large numbers reflected on the diversity of visitors and their classifications from doctors, engineers, teachers, and university students in addition to female teachers of the Qur’an, and female university students.

Dr.Rami Hafez, one of the book fair visitors, described to Enab Baladi the diversity of the books in the book fair is fine, expressing his admiration for the book fair. Hafez estimated that the average turnout for the book fair was good.

This fair book was not the first of its kind in northern Syria. The first book fair was held in the town of Atme in Idlib countryside in 2017, and it included a thousand titles of several books in various fields, according to a previous interview of Enab Baladi with the book fair organizer, Abdullah Najib.

Najib stressed at that time that most of the books were in the Islamic and religious fields, with other collections of books of other fields and specializations. Besides, Najib pointed out that the idea of kicking off a second fair book came because the first fair book witnessed a high visitor turnout and people in the region expressed their desire to buy books.

The challenge of a book fair in northern Syria

Al-Najjar stated that the opening of the “Read “book fair came, amid the intense military operation carried out by the Syrian regime in Idlib countryside and its devastating consequences such as displacement and preoccupation of the service delivery and media institutions to address needs of internally displaced persons and refugees in the region.

Al-Najjar added that among the challenges faced by the organizers of the fair book are the extreme weather( severe cold and heavy rainfalls), the deteriorating economic conditions, the sharp decline of the Syrian Pound against the US dollar — US Dollar exchange rate exceeds one thousand Syrian pounds, and not to mention the failure to secure books easily.

Nevertheless, the fair book achieved sales that amounted to 30 percent of the books displayed in the book fair and most sales were from the share of women and female university students. Additionally, the best-selling books were novels and religious books, as counted by al-Najjar.

Hafez said that despite the difficult financial situation of people, the book fair saw a high demand for buying books, pointing out that the prices of books were a little high.

Hafez considered book fairs an “urgent necessity,” although he thinks that the impact of the book fairs in northern Syria is still limited.

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