NAJAF, Iraq — For decades, the overland route between western Iraq and Lebanon has been the busiest and most important passage for the transportation of books and publications to Iraq. Today, the route has fallen under control of the Islamic State (IS), with fighters censoring book shipments to prevent the entry of material and information they consider to be contrary to Islam. Given that the transportation of books by air and sea is much more costly, IS’ control over land routes will affect the market for and distribution of cultural products in Iraq.
Fighters usually inspect cargo, impose custom duties and confiscate any publication deemed contrary to their principles. The offending books are burned or otherwise destroyed on the spot. Moreover, the vehicle drivers face serious consequences. In many cases, they are only released after their relatives or the publishing houses they work for agree to pay large sums of money as ransom.