ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Kurdish author and professor Farhad Pirbal torched a bookstore early Friday, citing infringement of copyright on his intellectual property by the establishment called Malli Wafayi, which is also a publishing house. Local police arrested him later in the day.
Pirbal said in a Facebook post after the fire, addressing the shop owner: “Without consulting me or a legal contract…you have printed five of my books.” The post came an hour after he uploaded a video that showed a store in flames.
Pirbal was born in 1961. He studied at Sulaimani University in 1984 and, a decade later, finished his Ph.D. in Modern Kurdish literature. He has been a professor at Salahaddin University in Erbil since the early 2000s and has authored dozens of books.
“I told him [owner of the store]: I want all my books back…otherwise, I would burn my books in your store,” Pirbal added. The man has been embroiled in several controversies before and is known for his use of vulgar and provocative language.
The writer then said the owner of Malli Wafayi had told him “to file a complaint in court,” to which he had responded that he had previously caused issues with the court and would not be heard there.
“What I did [the fire] was a message to parliament so that they pass a law that protects the rights of writers, intellectuals, and artists,” he concluded. The director of the bookstore, however, disputes the author’s claims.
“We should have been listened to yesterday,” Aziz Soran, the director of Malli Wafayi, told Kurdistan 24 later on Friday. He explained that his business had reported Pirbal’s repeated threats to the authorities the day before the incident on Saturday, but their warning had gone unheeded.
“We had no problems with him,” Soran said, adding that Pirbal only truly has issues with government officials and torched the shop as “revenge” for purported injustices committed against him by said officials.
The Malli Wafayi director explained that they had worked with Pirbal in various areas, including publishing his books and organizing symposiums for him. “On Thursday, we held a seminar, and printed two books for him…and gave him his share.”
But immediately after the event, he began issuing threats, which Soran did not take seriously at first, he said. But after they went on for the third day, “I reached out to any official in this city and asked for…two police officers to protect my store.”
Over 5,000 books inside the shop and thousands more in a storage space on the second floor had been destroyed either in the blaze or when the firefighters put it out. “Over ten years of our work was in this building.”
He called on the government to compensate them for their loss, which he estimated at around tens of thousands of US dollars.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany