I lay in the stockroom and could smell the books and newspapers burning. I could taste the smell of burning hair and flesh on my tongue.
Lying on the ground, I watched the entire street turn hot and black with smoke and then, after a few minutes, stared up at the hole in the roof and saw thousands of small gray ashes—pieces of paper, books, newspapers—floating down from the sky. I stood at the microphone on a stage far from him but felt paralyzed by the scene he described.
We were all on Al-Mutanabbi Street at that moment.
It changed us, changed my country forever. Like many Americans, and thousands of writers around the world who stood by and watched helplessly as the U.
But that afternoon in Washington, D. I understood the profound importance of Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here and why I had become involved with this project. How could it be otherwise? I have never forgotten this man and his vivid description of that day. It lingers with me still.
The broadsides project has been touring internationally since , with associated readings and panel discussions. It seeks to show the commonality between this small street in Baghdad and our own cultural centers, and why this attack was an attack on us all. Flashpoint Press More than 30 people were killed and more than wounded. Sign up today
At the height of my own sense of helplessness at understanding the destruction that the U. Like the founder of this coalition, Beau Beausoleil, I vividly remember reading the news headlines in the New York Times about the bombing on March 5, Thirty people were killed, and more than one hundred were injured.
The stores and stalls that lined Al-Mutanabbi composed a physical world of words and paper where people could buy, sell, and trade books new and used freely and sometimes clandestinely and traffic in the world of ideas, regardless of how threatening or radical they may have been to the government. To many Iraqis, Al-Mutanabbi Street was much more than a neighborhood, more than its shops; it was an intellectual capital for Iraq. It was the place that Iraqis frequented during some of the most tense and difficult periods in recent Iraqi history, including the years of the Iran-Iraq War , the long years of U.
Al-Mutanabbi himself died in because of some lines in a poem he wrote that caused insult. That a street in Baghdad had survived centuries of warfare, political abuse, and dictatorship made it all the more significant when the car bomb devastated the area and the entire neighborhood erupted into flames. Enter Beau Beausoleil: a San Francisco bookseller, poet, and community activist for whom the assault on Al-Mutanabbi Street touched a deep nerve.
As a bookseller himself and a purveyor of ideas and culture, the bombing of Al-Mutanabbi became a way for Beausoleil to see, feel, and experience an otherwise alienating and distant spectacle of daily news headlines about Iraq.
It was an assault on culture and ideas which belong to us all. It was at that first memorial reading in August where I encountered the call to action on the poster:.
We are among the pages of every book that was shredded and burned and covered with flesh and blood that day. And to those who would manufacture hate with the tools of language. For example, when you search for a film, we use your search information and location to show the most relevant cinemas near you.
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On March 5th, , a car bomb was exploded on al-Mutanabbi Street in Baghdad—the historic center of Baghdad bookselling—wounding more than . Smithsonian Libraries enabled dialogue about free speech in Iraq through an exhibition of artists' books as part of the Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here DC .
Child—to speak their name in a recorder. Go to every school, stand at the front of the class, take roll; for every empty desk, at least two dead.
Go to the bus station and buy ten tickets— offer them free to anyone who wants to leave. Here come the octopi of war tentacles wielding guns, missiles holy books and colorful flags. Write with your fingernails, scratch light upon these darkened days.
Al-Mutanabbi Street was once the center of literary life in Baghdad. A new project brings the street back to life. Go see the coffin-maker. Karim See Them Coming Here come the octopi of war tentacles wielding guns, missiles holy books and colorful flags. Further Reading:.