Printing in Iraq: The 1958-84 Period

II. Republican Iraq, 1958-84

II. Republican Iraq, 1958-84

A. Printing in Kurdistan, The fall of the monarchy in 1958 led to enormous publishing activity although only one printing press was added to those already operating in Kurdistan. Kamaran Press, established in 1958 in Sulaymaniya, had been the most active and printed 161 books between 1958 and 1975 (Nariman 1977:267) as well as several periodicals and various types of commercial materials. The record is striking if one considers that the machinery was small and hand-operated. Writing about the problems of printing the monthly magazine Rojf No, one of the workers at the press noted that much time had to be spent on letter-setting-one day for eight pages of the magazine. Another obstacle was the lack of small size letters. The press was ill-equipped for color printing: for the application of each color, the paper had to be run once and then the ink changed for other colors. Folding, cutting and binding were all done by hand (Rojî Nö, Vol. 2, No.1, March 1961, pp. 37-42).

Two privately owned printing presses were .established in the 1960s¬Salahaddin (1963) in Arbil and Raparîn (Uprising) in Sulaymaniya (1967). The former did not print any Kurdish literature.

No breakthrough had been made in the arena of printing by the end of the 1960s. The Sulaymaniya-based weekly Rizgarî (50 pages) had to be printed in Baghdad. The editor wrote, " … none of the printing presses in Sulaymaniya or anywhere in Kurdistan are able to print the journal on a weekly basis in the form and format we desire" (No.7, September 21, 1969, p. 2).

When agreement was reached between the government and Kurdish autonomists in March 1970, a Kurdish demand for state sponsored printing and publishing facilities raised in two teachers’ congresses in 1959 and 1960 was considered. The ruling "Revolutionary Command Council… ordered arrangements to be made for founding a Kurdish publishing and printing house and a directorate general of Kurdish culture … " (Iraq Republic 1974: 12-13). This part of the agreement was implemented a decade later.

The 1970s began with a press in the Kurmanji speaking town of Dahok, which was moved to Baghdad in 1973 after printing three books. Kakay Falah functioned as the third printing press in Sulaymaniya for two years before moving to Baghdad in 1974, after printing nine books. Sulaymaniya University set up its  printing press in 1973, although no more than five books had been printed in the 1970s. Finally, the Municipality in Arbil set up its press in 1974.

Table 18. Kurdish Printing Presses in Iraq

Sources: Nariman (1977) and 7 -, 1.2

The General Directorate of Culture and Youth founded a modern press in Arbil in January, 1984 for the purpose of "developing the diffusion of Kurdish culture." One million dinars (about $3 million) were spent on the project and its staff was trained in Baghdad (Hawkarî, No. 799, July 25, 1985). Another well equipped press was established by the Ministry of Education in Arbil, which is used for printing textbooks and other educational material.

B. Kurdish Printing Outside Kurdistan. The meagre printing facilities in Kurdistan forced many writers, journalists and publishers to stay in Baghdad, where 58.6% of all Kurdish books were printed between 1920 and 1957 (cf. Table 19). The only Kurdish press in Baghdad was set up in 1935 by two nationalists, Kurdî and Marîwanî, who had been engaged in publishing classical Kurdish literature since the early 1930s. They printed six titles before the press stopped operating in 1938 for unknown reasons. The only other press capable of printing Kurdish was the Ma’arif Press (cf. above).

Printing in Baghdad suffered from many shortcomings. One serious problem was the unfamiliarity of the letter-setters with the Kurdish language. They did not distinguish word-spaces and, as a result, either joined two or three words or cut one word into pieces (cf., e.g., Bangî Kurdistan, No. 14-2, February 15, 1926; Roşinbîrî Nö, No. 106, 1985, p. 384; cf., also, 7.5.5). The Kurdish historian Rafiq Hilmi (1958:[3]), who had several of his works printed in Baghdad, complained that whenever the printers were busy they refused to print Kurdish books, preferring to accommodate their regular Baghdadi clients.

When the Kurdish Academy was established in 1972 (cf. 10.3.0), the Iraqi Academy provided it with a printing press that was small, old and with worn-out type (GKZK., Vol. 3, Part 1, 1975, p. 560). Still, it was considered a blessing since the Academy had to use "outside printers" for most of its publishing, a situation which was considered an obstacle to the realization of its aims (Ibid., Vol. 2, Part I, 1974, p. 841). Drawing on its budget, the Academy renovated the press by spending 40,551 dinars (i.e., 21 % of its total budget of 196,340 dinars for the 1975-77 periods). With the purchase of binding equipment, the organization could become self-sufficient (Ibid., Vol. 5, 1977, p. 433). The printing press made a considerable contribution, by producing excellent and voluminous books hitherto inexperienced in the Kurdish book world, and by printing the works of individual authors at reduced prices. Nevertheless, after the incorporation of the Kurdish Academy into the Iraqi Academy, printing activity was reduced to a minimum (cf. 10.3.0).

According to the information available for the period 1920-77 (cf. Table 19), 47.2% of books were published outside Kurdistan, mainly in Baghdad (45.2 %), which indicates the poor state of printing in the area. Comparing pre¬ and post-1958 periods, it is obvious, however, that more printing has been carried out in Kurdistan during the Republican period (56.3% compared with 41.3% for the pre-1958 years).

In Kurdistan, Sulaymaniya dominates printing with 35.9 % of the activity more than twice the total share of all other Kurdish towns. The preeminence of this city is, however, challenged by Arbil, where three state-owned presses have been in operation since the late 1970s (cf. 5.1.9 on government policy toward Arbil). Another important trend is the government attempt to dominate the print media all over Iraq (cf.

Table 19. Place of Printing of Kurdish Books in Iraq, 1920-77

Source: Data gathered from sources used in Table 20

Source: Dr. Amir Hassanpour, "Nationalism and Language in Kurdistan 1918-1985", 1992.