New contributor: Sumi Perera

Sumi’s page features photos of passers-by discovering her bookmarks.


Activist bookmark workshop


Two young Iraqi mums with primary-school children were among those who made bookmarks at an afternoon workshop in Exeter (UK) library on Friday. As well as reaffirming our belief in the value of literature, we had a lot of fun with rubber stamps, felt-tips and glue!

Letter in support of Dr Saad Eskander

This is the text of a letter delivered by hand today to the Iraqi Ambassador to the United Kingdom.

Your Excellency

I am a UK member of Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here, a coalition of over 600 artists and writers from 20 countries. This figure includes over 100 in the United Kingdom.

I write to you today to express our serious concern for the future of the Iraq National Library and Archive since the forced departure of Dr Saad Eskander, who from the time of his appointment as Director in November 2003 showed outstanding courage and dedication in working to re-open the building and safeguard its contents after extensive structural damage, burning and looting. Despite frequent setbacks and opposition, threats to his life and crippling lack of resources, he made the INLA an institution to be proud of. His qualities of leadership were exemplary, combining integrity, heroism, humility, clarity of purpose and constant care for his staff’s safety.

How is it that this man has been ousted from his post? Since his departure many of the experienced and qualified staff have resigned and been replaced by unqualified people. The work of the INLA has declined steeply. Staff training is drastically reduced and the number of library-users has decreased in proportion with the reduction in services. Morale is low.

I hope you understand that a great many people throughout the world are aware of the huge cultural significance of INLA both within Iraq and beyond its boundaries. This institution is precious to all of us and we greatly fear for its survival without Dr Eskander’s leadership.

Therefore I urge you to use whatever influence you have to ensure that Dr Eskander is reinstated as Director before the damage to INLA is irreversible.


Ama Bolton
poet, broadside printer and book-artist

(109 other names were attached)

Anniversary readings

Today is the eighth anniversary of the bombing of Al-Mutanabbi Street. Today and over the weekend there will be readings in many parts of the world. Some of us will gather in small groups in homes, shops or offices, others will attend public events in libraries and other cultural institutions. One person will be reading alone on a train! All of us will be holding memories and hopes, mourning the loss of life and expressing solidarity with the survivors.

There are reasons to be sad, but here is one reason to be hopeful!

People say, what is the sense of our small effort? They cannot see that we must lay one brick at a time, take one step at a time. A pebble cast into a pond causes ripples that spread in all directions. Each one of our thoughts, words and deeds is like that. No one has a right to sit down and feel hopeless. There is too much work to do.
Dorothy Day


Zaira Ahmed Zaka
Zaira Ahmed Zaka

You may have arrived here because you’ve found a bookmark with the words “Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here”. Welcome to the informal community of writers and artists that is the Al-Mutanabbi Street Coalition. Wherever you are, in your home, in your reading group, in your local cultural centre, library or book-store, wherever literature and ideas are valued, Al-Mutanabbi Street starts there.

To find out what the bookmark project is about, have a look at the “About” page. To see other bookmarks, click on “Bookmarks” and browse the various artists’ creations. If you’d like to make and contribute some bookmarks yourself, the “Guidelines” page is the place to start.

Finally, here are some useful links to the other branches of this project: broadsides, artists’ books, printmakers, music, readings and exhibitions.

Artists’ Book Project (An Inventory of Al-Mutanabbi Street – Click into a gallery and then onto any book image to see more views of the book and read the artist’s statement.

Al-Mutanabbi Street Broadsides –

2014 reading at the Arab British Centre in London –

Review of our anthology in Jadaliyya, Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here

A musical piece that was composed for the project

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter – Martin Luther King Jr.

John Packer
John Packer