Society

Iraqis donate books to rebuild Mosul libraries

By Alaa Hussain in Baghdad

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Iraqi pharmaceutics student Abdesatar al-Hamdany, 21, carries his books in front of the destroyed buildings of Mosul's University on January 22nd, a week after Iraqi counter-terrorism service (CTS) retook it from the 'Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant'. [Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP]

After the systematic destruction that libraries suffered at the hands of the "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" (ISIL) in Mosul, several initiatives are striving to stack up the shelves of the city's central library with donated books and manuscripts.

In February 2015, ISIL ransacked the Mosul library, burning over 100,000 rare manuscripts and documents spanning centuries of human learning. It also blew up the library's main building in al-Faisaliya in eastern Mosul.

People gathered at the site and tried to dissuade the extremists from burning the library but failed.

Now that Iraqi forces have recaptured east Mosul and have their sights set on the western side of the city, efforts are under way to reinstate security and services in liberated areas.

But in addition to "security, food and medicine, the people of Mosul also need the restoration of their cultural glory, which terrorists tried to abolish", said Iraqi poet Wahab Sherif, a member of the Najaf Union of Writers.

The union, in co-ordination with a group of youths in Najaf and civil society organisations, recently launched an initiative to collect and donate books to Mosul library.

"The union has already received [donations from] 112 donors," he told Diyaruna.

These included authors who donated their books, individuals who donated from their own private collection, others who bought books on the market and gave them away, and publishing houses that provided several books and titles.

'No sectarian publications'

All collected books were "scientific or literary to the exclusion of religious titles", Sherif said.

Initiative organisers requested that only scientific, literary, historical and poetry titles be donated to avoid any sectarian tensions that might arise from donating certain religious books, he said.

The initiative's objective "is one of pure patriotism, which supersedes sectarianism, ethnicity and any other slogan", he said, describing it as a "humanitarian and cultural cause".

The Najaf Union of Writers has been co-ordinating with Mosul University, the Mosul library and all relevant authorities to secure the transportation of books to Mosul as soon as possible.

The "I Read, Therefore I am Iraqi" civil society organisation has also joined in the efforts this month and started collecting books for the Mosul library.

So far, it has managed to amass 6,000 literary, cultural and art-themed titles, said vice president Bahaa Kamel.

"Donors have donated books at the several designated drop off points across Baghdad and other cities. Some activists have also sent books from abroad," he told Diyaruna.

Kamel said the initiative will continue until the western side of Mosul is liberated, after which all collected books will be sent in one batch to Mosul.

Other initiatives

As part of its efforts to support affected universities in the country, the University of Thi Qar recently sent hard copies of academic theses and dissertations to Mosul University.

"Thi Qar University has donated 50 hard copies of published masters theses and doctoral dissertations to the central library of Mosul University," secretary general of the Thi Qar University central library, Raed Hameed, told Diyaruna.

The university had also previously sent hard copies of academic theses to Tikrit University which ISIL briefly occupied in 2015. The campus was badly damaged in the fight for the city’s liberation from ISIL in April 2015.

Meanwhile, the Basra University for Oil and Gas launched a large scale campaign to revive the central library in Mosul after it was burned down by ISIL, Haider Ali, the director of media and public relations at the university, said during a late January statement to the press.

"In addition to the military war, we need to wage an intellectual war through books against every deviant thought that has spawned the hatred and takfir brought about by ISIL," he said.

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