The Booksellers of Mutanabi Street

Once Tortured, Iraqi Merchants Now Back in Business

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Iraqi booksellers Haider 'the Magazine' Mohammed, Amar Jassem and Achmed Messem

Iraqi booksellers Haider 'the Magazine' Mohammed Shahker, Amar Jassem and Achmed Messem. NPR News/Jacki Lyden hide caption

itoggle caption NPR News/Jacki Lyden

In October 2003, NPR's Jacki Lyden reported on the effect of the U.S. occupation of Iraq on Baghdad's Mutanabi Street book district. Known for a lively exchange of ideas — even under the regime of Saddam Hussein — the street was nearly deserted after an explosion had damaged its main entrance.

Lyden revisited the street recently to find it nearly back to normal. She spoke with booksellers about the clandestine means they used to import and distribute banned publications — and the punishments they recieved.

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