Skip to main content

Diyarbakir book fair returns after 4-year hiatus

Diyarbakir’s book fair, one of the main cultural events of the region, had been stopped due to security reasons in 2015. Now that it is back, thousands of residents from Diyarbakir and region came to pick up a book or two.

DIYARBAKIR, Turkey — Over the weekend, Elazig Street, which leads to the Diyarbakir Fair and Congress Center, was filled with cars and pedestrians — possibly reminding an onlooker of the happier times for the region more than a decade ago, when large crowds gathered on this road to celebrate Nowruz, the Kurdish New Year. But, this time, the crowds — families, young people and children — are not heading for dancing and singing but to a book fair.

The Diyarbakir Book Fair, the largest literary gathering in Turkey’s southeast since its inception in 2010, has returned to the city after a four-year hiatus. The fair had been suspended in 2015, when the organizers announced that the bombings and clashes in the city made it impossible to maintain security. 

The six-day fair, held Sept. 25-30, had a good revival, with 153 publishing houses — with books in Turkish and Kurdish — and associations participating. It also hosted roughly 110,000 visitors — 20,000 more than the last fair in 2014.

“It is a positive sign that 110,000 people turned up for this fair,” Muharrem Erbey, an author and human rights activist, told Al-Monitor. “Diyarbakir is a city that reads. I have learned that the Kurdish-language books sold well, too,” he added, referring to the stands of the 30 publishing houses that displayed Kurdish-language books.

Erbey said people’s interest in the fair was a reflection of their longing for cultural events. “In the last few years, culture has taken a back seat to conflict and to politics. The government-appointed mayors [who have replaced the elected mayors in the region and throughout Turkey] have done next to nothing on culture.” 

The fair was a reflection of the political environment in Turkey. At the last fair in 2014, fair posters had been in three languages, Turkish, English and Kurdish. However, this year, posters and banners were only in Turkish, creating resentment among the predominantly Kurdish-speaking public and criticism in the local media. Unconfirmed rumors among participants of the fair indicated that some of the Kurdish publishing houses had boycotted the fair on the grounds that the posters and banners were only in Turkish.

The fair drew its largest crowds over the weekend — its last two days.

“Judging by the way they all turned up, the local people must have thought that this was the Nowruz celebrations,” attendee Kadir Karagoz, speaking tongue in cheek, told Al-Monitor. Then he added on a more serious note that this was a city where people were curious and eager to learn. “This has been the land of different books — holy or not — faiths and cultures for centuries. Yes, we are in economic difficulties now, but even then, many of the people here think that book-learning and education will help their children have a better life than they do.”

“Diyarbakir has lived through a tense period in the last few years,” he said, referring to the clashes between the Turkish security forces and Kurdish militants, the curfews and the destruction of the ancient district of Sur — the walled city — in Diyarbakir. “This is a bit of fresh air.”

The fair hosted Turkish writers who wrote in Turkish on the Kurdish issue, such as journalists Altan Oymen, Levent Gultekin and Ismail Saymaz, best-selling authors Ayse Kulin and Oya Baydar, sociologists Ismail Besikci and Fikret Baskaya.

It also included new-generation Kurdish writers, such as Murat Bayram, a journalist and editor of the independent news agency Bianet’s Kurdish-language section. He has released his first book of short stories, “Belki isev binive” (“Maybe she will sleep tonight”), about life in Diyarbakir during the 2015 clashes and curfews.

“The readers here are informed of the new books,” Bayram told Al-Monitor. “I saw that many of them visited the fair with a list of books that they wanted to buy. The local kids rushed to the stands with Kurdish books.” Then he added, “The fact that this book fair took place is a sign of normalcy.”

The multicultural nature of the city was reflected in the choice of the fair’s guest of honor, Turkish-Armenian writer Migirdic Margosyan. Margosyan, who was born in the non-Muslim quarter of the old city, right under the city walls, told Al-Monitor that he had been reluctant to be the guest of honor in the fair, given that he had participated ever since the beginning. “I am from the city,” he said. “I am no guest. But [the organizers] invited me and I accepted.”

“Not that I am complaining about [the organizers],” he said. “If I were to complain, it would be about the policies that made me a guest in my own city.” His words are a thinly veiled reference to the fact that his childhood neighborhood, which became the title of his book “Infidel Quarter,” was damaged in the clashes and then became the venue of a much-criticized gentrification plan.

The veteran writer also praised the attendance at the fair. “It’s good that there was so much interest after a hiatus of four years. Most people actually came to buy books, not to look around. The authors and the readers had plenty of occasions to talk to each other, too. When I talked to the readers, they mostly asked me about the Infidel Quarter — perhaps because it no longer exists.”

Join hundreds of Middle East professionals with Al-Monitor PRO.

Business and policy professionals use PRO to monitor the regional economy and improve their reports, memos and presentations. Try it for free and cancel anytime.

Already a Member? Sign in


The Middle East's Best Newsletters

Join over 50,000 readers who access our journalists dedicated newsletters, covering the top political, security, business and tech issues across the region each week.
Delivered straight to your inbox.


What's included:
Our Expertise

Free newsletters available:

  • The Takeaway & Week in Review
  • Middle East Minute (AM)
  • Daily Briefing (PM)
  • Business & Tech Briefing
  • Security Briefing
  • Gulf Briefing
  • Israel Briefing
  • Palestine Briefing
  • Turkey Briefing
  • Iraq Briefing

Premium Membership

Join the Middle East's most notable experts for premium memos, trend reports, live video Q&A, and intimate in-person events, each detailing exclusive insights on business and geopolitical trends shaping the region.

$25.00 / month
billed annually

Become Member Start with 1-week free trial
What's included:
Our Expertise AI-driven

Memos - premium analytical writing: actionable insights on markets and geopolitics.

Live Video Q&A - Hear from our top journalists and regional experts.

Special Events - Intimate in-person events with business & political VIPs.

Trend Reports - Deep dive analysis on market updates.

All premium Industry Newsletters - Monitor the Middle East's most important industries. Prioritize your target industries for weekly review:

  • Capital Markets & Private Equity
  • Venture Capital & Startups
  • Green Energy
  • Supply Chain
  • Sustainable Development
  • Leading Edge Technology
  • Oil & Gas
  • Real Estate & Construction
  • Banking

We also offer team plans. Please send an email to and we'll onboard your team.

Already a Member? Sign in

Turkey Briefing Turkey Briefing

Turkey Briefing

Top Turkey stories in your inbox each week

Trend Reports

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (4th R) attends a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping (3rd L) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on February 22, 2019. (Photo by HOW HWEE YOUNG / POOL / AFP) (Photo credit should read HOW HWEE YOUNG/AFP via Getty Images)

From roads to routers: The future of China-Middle East connectivity

A general view shows the solar plant in Uyayna, north of Riyadh, on March 29, 2018. - On March 27, Saudi announced a deal with Japan's SoftBank to build the world's biggest solar plant. (Photo by FAYEZ NURELDINE / AFP) (Photo credit should read FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP via Getty Images)

Regulations on Middle East renewable energy industry starting to take shape

Start your PRO membership today.

Join the Middle East's top business and policy professionals to access exclusive PRO insights today.

Join Al-Monitor PRO Start with 1-week free trial