By Burcu Arik
The second Arabic Culture and Book Days began on Friday in Istanbul's iconic Sultanahmet Square, inviting avid readers to enjoy books as well as numerous conferences and panels.
The festival, which last through Feb. 26, features 50 publishers and Islamic intellectuals from 22 Arabic-speaking countries, including Syria, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, Jordan, Kuwait, and Tunisia, plus Turkey.
Jointly organized by the Writers' Union of Turkey, the Istanbul Sultanahmet Foundation, and Hasimi, an Istanbul-based Arabic-language publishing house, the 10-day event is expected to attract over 50,000 visitors.
Speaking at the festival opening, Mahmut Biyikli, director of the Istanbul branch of the Writers' Union of Turkey, said Turkey’s Arab population is growing every day, seeming to largely allude to the millions of Syrian refugees that have found shelter in Turkey.
"Somehow the shelter and nutrition needs of our Arab kin are met by the Turkish government, but both the state and civil society should take steps to meet their cultural needs," said Biyikli.
Turkey hosts approximately 3 million Syrian refugees, more than any other country in the world. It has spent around $25 billion to shelter and provide for refugees since the beginning of Syrian war in early 2011.