Afghanistan: Interest in studying wanes among the people, say Herat booksellers

Herat booksellers say the quest for knowledge and the culture of book reading has dropped significantly among the people – especially the youth – in the past 18 months, since the Taliban takeover.

They said that economic challenges and the closure of schools and universities for women and girls has also had an impact on business.

One bookseller, Ghulam Farooq Mahmoudi, said: “Most of the visitors of book markets were women and female students whose numbers have dropped by 80 percent after various bans on them,” he said.

“The situation has affected the youth most as their interest in reading has dropped significantly,” another bookseller Imad Mastan said.

Book fair aims to boost sales

In a bid to rekindle interest in reading books, a group of booksellers in Herat have organized a book fair in the city of Herat.

Haroon Qurbani, a visitor to the book fair, said the level of interest in reading is naturally low in Afghanistan; therefore, there is a need for more events of this nature in order to encourage people, especially the youth, to turn reading into a habit.

A number of women meanwhile said the closure of schools and universities has affected their morale and their interest in reading has waned.

Mursal Ahmadi, a resident of Herat, said she had been a student at Herat University but has been forced to stay home after the Taliban’s edict on higher education for women.

“You don’t see a lot of women near bookstores anymore as their interest in books has diminished,” she said. “When we visited the city’s library in the past, there was no place to sit, but now there are very few women and girls who go there to read.”

Another woman, Jamila Walizada, who was a computer science student at Herat University, said the ban on higher education was a big blow to their morale.

“Women’s morale has weakened, unfortunately. I ask the Taliban government to not ignore women and girls as they’re a strong layer of society,” said Walizada.

According to the booksellers union, Herat city has about 100 bookstores but warned that they will go bankrupt if the situation does not improve.

Secondary schools have been closed to girls for 18 months, depriving an estimated 1.1 million girls of getting an education. Universities in turn have been closed to women since December.