From AFP:

Iraqi Booksellers:

This is an AFP report that--as I don't see it available in English on the web right now--I'm going to post in whole body:

Baghdadis turn to political, religious books once banned under Saddam

BAGHDAD, March 28 (AFP) - Iraqis are buying political and religious
books and snapping up satellite dishes once banned under the oppressive regime of Saddam Hussein, to quench a thirst for information they were once denied.

On the famed Mutanabi Street book market of Baghdad, shopkeepers and
vendors who work right off the pavement shrug off any concern about the
sky-rocketing sales of satellite dishes since the end of the US-led war
to oust Saddam a year ago.

'People are buying more books since the end of the war,' said Mohammed
al-Yawi, who owns Al-Naktha, one of the oldest bookshops in Baghdad.

'Foreign languages are top sellers, particularly English manuals, and
religious and political books are in much demand because they were
banned by Saddam,' said Yawi, who serves clients from across Baghdad.

Ayssar al-Kobaissi specialises in the sale of legal books.

He said business has been brisk since the US-led coalition brought down
Saddam's regime and that book sales are often influenced by what the
Iraqis see on television thanks to the satellite dishes they now own.

'The day after religious programmes are shown on television, clients
come in here to buy books' he said.

Iraqis, he said, are spurred into buying books for both political and
economic reasons.

'The price of books is down because there are no sales taxes,' he said,
about import tariffs that have been suspended since the fall of the

'People also can buy whatever their hearts desire. There are no police
controls,' he said.

Religious books, once a forbidden fruit, are also back on the shelves.

Copies of the Koran, Islam's holy book, particularly bilingual
Arabic-English editions, sell like hot cakes on Mutanabi Street,
particularly for US troops occupying Baghdad who shop there with their

At the Shahbandar cafe, a favourite haunt of bookworms, academics and
artists, Amir al-Mosuli believes firmly that Iraq's older generation
will never stop reading.

'We are addicted to books,' said Mosuli, who translates English
literature classics into Arabic.

'Yes, people do watch television more than before because they now have
access to all the (once banned) channels but that does not keep them
from reading,' he said.

Mosuli believes that many Iraqis have turned to religious books 'to seek
solace from the crisis facing our society'.

'People can come to this coffee shop to get away from their families,
read and forget the situation,' he said.

Many Iraqis seek their escape in periodicals that are piled up high on
dusty plastic sheets dottin the sidewalk on Mutanabi Street: faded
copies of French fashion magazines, bodybuilding publications from the
United States and even an old edition of the German weekly Der Spiegel
with a picture of the late actress Marlene Dietrich on the cover.

One sidewalk vendor offers pre-war schoolbooks rife with pictures of the
ousted dictator side by side with Saddam-free school manuals that were
printed after the end of the war last April.

Partisans of political parties outlawed under Saddam also have their say
now on Mutanabi Street, where communist literature is among that on

There is literally something for everyone, from a discourse on military
strategy by an ex-Soviet army officer to books on wanted terrorist
mastermind Osama bin Laden, the memoirs of a former Saddam advisor,
biographies of Iran's late spiritual guide Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini
and the latest manuals on information technology.
It's hard to think of a more hopeful sign than this.

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