The Kurdish Globe
By Qassim Khidhir--Erbil
A German citizen living in Erbil says seeing Hitler's book in the bookstores of Erbil makes him disappointed.
In Erbil, the capital city of Iraqi Kurdistan Region, many bookstores and newsstands have copies of Hitler's book Mein Kampf (My Struggle) for sale. Selling for around 5,000 Iraqi dinars (about $4.00), the book is only available in Kurdish and Arabic.
Rasheed Rafaat, who owns a newsstand in Erbil's central bazaar, told The Kurdish Globe that no day passes without selling at least two copies of Mein Kampf.
Anyone who passes by Rafaat's kiosk, facing the street, will notice the book's cover with a portrait of Hitler on it. Next to it is a book about Saddam Hussein, His Life and Secrets. "The majority who buy the [Hitler] book are university students," says Rafaat, but more students buy the book about Ernesto Che Guevara than the Hitler book.
Mein Kampf was translated into Kurdish from Arabic by Salah Naqshbandi. The first edition of the book was sold out quickly, and is now being reprinted. The book does not have a serial number to indicate that the government has authorized it. Rafaat says one doesn't need the government's permission to translate a book and sell it, and he does not need authorization to sell any book. "It is a free market," he noted.
As Salar Abdullah, 28, was looking at the daily newspapers, he said he believes it is normal to sell Hitler's book. People should have the freedom of choice, and no book should be banned. Abdullah, who lives in Norway, said "I, as a Kurdish person, some of whom were massacred by Saddam Hussein, I feel OK if I see books written by Saddam Hussein in the bookstores in Norway." He added, "You can find out a lot about a person through his books."
Nevertheless, Abdullah thinks it might be dangerous to sell Hitler's book in Europe. Currently, immigrants, especially those from the East, have a problem with neo-Nazi groups in Europe. "In Norway, areas such as Arindal, Kristansan, Lilasand and Begen, neo-Nazi groups attack people like us, particularly on Sundays and Saturdays," he said. Abdullah explained that many of the neo-Nazis have Swastika tattoos on their bodies, they shave their heads and they hate refugees.
Henrik Ahrens, a German citizen living in Erbil and country director of Media Academy-Iraq, a German-funded academy for training and consulting media outlets in Iraq, says seeing Hitler's book in the bookstores of Erbil makes him disappointed, because it is the only book that has a connection to Germany in the market and it is pure Nazi propaganda. "I was living and traveling in other countries in the Middle East and I know that Hitler's book is a best-seller in many countries in the region. I felt that the success of Mein Kampf is related to the existence of Israel, a Jewish state, and a general anti-Semitism in the region. The Nazi ideology and its anti-Semitism match the irrational hate and prejudices of many people in the region. It's sad but true; many people can identify with its content."
Ahrens added that "Here in Kurdistan, it is a bit special because people consider themselves Arians. But the only ideology that distinguished the German people between Arians and non-Arians (Jews, for instance) was Hitler's Nazi propaganda. So, they feel like we're part of one family. But as a matter of fact, Germans didn't identify with being Arian before Hitler and they don't do it today. I guess that most of those who mention these common roots want me to feel welcome. But it actually makes me feel awkward. I feel very welcome, respected and well treated in Kurdistan and even in the non-Arian parts of Iraq."
Ahrens believes people who read Hitler's book must have some knowledge about the ideology of his party, about the historical conditions that made him successful and the crimes that he and his followers are responsible for. "If someone is interested in that part of German history, he should read more than the propaganda that was produced by them. Imagine if I want to know about Iraq's history during Saddam Hussein and I would only read the books of the Baath party. That's brainwashing!"
Imad Rasheed, a Kurdish intellectual who also has a bookstore in Erbil's bazaar, selling Hitler's book, said banning any thought is dangerous. "Forbidden fruits are sweet. In my bookstore, I have three books that are written by Saddam Hussein. If the government decides to ban them, more people will read them than now."
In Germany, Hitler's book is banned. Ahrens read the book, which he got from his grandfather, who had received it as a wedding gift from the Nazi Party during the war. 'I read it and it is sometimes really hard to understand what he's talking about. He's mixing up facts and uses them the way he wants. It is only propaganda. I recommend every Iraqi not to waste their time reading it."