The students of Yarmouk University in Irbid, Jordan all know the bookshop that is set up outside its main gate - an impressive array of books in both English and Arabic owned by local man Shadi Abu Naser. Abu Naser (known as “Shadi” to his friends and customers) is perhaps more well-known than the books themselves, and regularly invites students, travellers, and passersby to join him for a cup of tea. He’s become a well-known figure in Jordan, having even been featured in an Al-Jazeera documentary.
But on October 10th, Shadi’s book stand was shut down, and he was told that he could no longer sell books by order of the Greater Irbid Municipality. The reason given was that he lacked the proper licensing to have a stand on the sidewalk around the university. Shadi and his supporters began posting extensively on his plight, demanding his stand be returned. Today, his stand was given back, but he tells Al Bawaba he still hasn't been given the proper licensing.
When the word came from the municipality, Shadi took to Facebook to vent his frustration and explain to his friends what happened.
And Shadi is not the only one fighting for the stand to stay open. The beloved character who sells books at Yarmouk University has many friends both in and outside Irbid, and thousands have taken to Facebook and Twitter to implore the government to reverse its decision.
“The most beautiful busta … Even just seeing the books made me happy.”
نتمنى من رئيس جامعة اليرموك اعطاء شادي مساحه مجانا في عمادة شؤون الطلبه لعرض الكتب والروايات والتشجيع عالقرائه— Åñas Shdëfât (@anasShdifat) October 11, 2016
“We hope that the president of Yarmouk University will give Shadi a free space to display books and novels and to encourage reading.”
Many hope that bringing Shadi’s issue to a broader audience will force the government to act and reverse their decision.
“Friends, tweet today about #Give_Us_Back_Shadi’s_Busta”... Not because it will fix everything, but because we are able to make a difference in a human being’s life.”
Several Jordanian TV and internet personalities, like Ahmed Massad, have chimed in on the debate as well.
"[Shadi] asked you for permission to spread culture and awareness in this society at the gates of the Universities, to open a licensed stand - and you refused him. What do you want him to sell to get licensed? Lighters? Taxed cigarettes? Cotton candy? Or do you need serious wasta [i.e. nepotistic connections]? If the books are bothering you then close the university that’s behind the busta, because if it weren’t for these books there wouldn’t be universities."
Ahmed Srour, a well-known TV personality in Jordan and the Middle East, took to the airwaves and asked anyone listening who works at the Irbid Municipality, anyone who has connections, or anyone who cares about the culture of their country to stand up for Shadi.
At time of writing, Shadi has been told that he's been given temporary permission to run his stand without it being taken down. Nevertheless, he has not been granted anything further. "We wen't down to the Municipality and the said 'fine, leave the stand there'. They said they won't give me any licensing, however".
Though Irbid's beloved bookseller is back in business for now, his inability to license the stand is an issue. At any time the Municipality could change its mind - so for now, the social media campaign continues.