In Iraq’s Baghdad, a new bookstore is making waves — not for the titles it sells but for the woman who owns it.
Abdul Hadi Mudher al-Biyati is the first woman to run a publishing house and shop on al-Muntanabbi Street, which is home to the Iraqi capital’s historic book market.
Al-Muntanabbi Street, which is named after a 10th century Iraqi poet, is the literary heart of the city, and until recently, its bookshops and stalls have been run by men only.
Al-Biyati, a 29-year-old who wears red lipstick and nail polish, as well as Western clothing, says that she didn’t think at all of how others would look at her. She was only thinking of the fact that she is achieving something when she convinces someone to buy a book from her.
In 2011, al-Biyati graduated from college with a degree in engineering, but struggled to find a job. She frequently visited al-Muntanabbi Street to shop for new book titles to add to her collection. Then in 2017, al-Biyati decided it was time to strike out on her own, and thanks to financial backing from her father, she opened Bara’a Bookstore and Publishing House.
She has now published six books that deal with themes of love and the role of women in Iraqi society and plans to publish several more in the coming year.
Al-Biyati has received a warm reception from fellow booksellers in the market.