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Library Rebuilding Begins at University of Mosul

by on September 11, 2017

In 2014, ISIL/ISIS closed the University of Mosul.  Eight thousand books  and 10,000 manuscripts were destroyed by militants as they looted and ransacked the library. An anonymous blogger, who goes by Mosul Eye, is leading an effort to rebuilt and restock the library. Mosul Eye, a historian and blogger, has chronicled his life under ISIS rule in anonymity, for fear for his life and the life of his family. His mission now is to help this library rise like a phoenix from the literal ashes ISIS has left it in.

The University of Mosul was founded in April 1967, building on the foundations of the 1929 College of Medicine, under the control of the Ministry of Health. It was created to be a center for higher education in the city of Mosul and in Iraq. It offers accredited Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Doctorate degrees in more than 100 scientific concentrations. It is a public school and one of the leading educational centers in the Middle East. Its library was centrally located on campus and served as a common ground for scholarship and socializing for students and faculty.

“The central library at the university contained hundreds of thousands of books in Arabic and English, historic maps and periodicals from the Ottoman era, and ancient Islamic manuscripts, including a ninth-century Qur’an.”[1]  The library also contained thousands of twenty-first-century volumes on science, philosophy, the arts, and many other subjects. During the thirty-two months that the Islamic State controlled the city, the university campus was inaccessible and then reduced to ashes. Quite calculatedly, the library was hardest attacked. ISIS sought to destroy anything contained within the library walls that they found objectionable.

ISIS used the university as a base until Iraqi forces recaptured it in January 2017. Since then Mosul Eye has been organizing events and efforts to repopulate the library. For example, “On May 25th, students organized a book drive outside the gutted library, even as battles between the Iraqi Army and ISIS militants echoed from across the river. Four young musicians performed in front of the library steps. Three students pinned their photographs of people and places and life in Mosul on a long clothesline and recounted the stories behind them. Four painters displayed their work, propped on easels.”[2] The price of admission to the festival was a book to donate to the collection. Other groups around the globe have offered to facilitate in the repopulation.  Among them are:

  1. Solidarity and Cooperation in the Mediterranean (Entraide et Coopération en Méditerranée) pledged fifteen tons of books and a container full of tables and chairs.
  2. Iraqi-American Reconciliation Project, headquartered in Minneapolis, has been in contact with Mosul Eye about contributing books.
  3. Boston University has also reached out, as have smaller groups in Great Britain.[3]

Mosul Eye has said they have amassed about 10,000 books so far but still have a long way to go. The hope is that one day the library will revert to its status as a “beacon for knowledge and arts where young, curious minds in Mosul can come to learn about the city and the world’s history.”[4]


References

  1. Kaphle, Anup. 2017. BuzzFeed News. July 4. Accessed July 15, 2017. https://www.buzzfeed.com/anupkaphle/people-from-all-over-the-world-are-sending-books-to-help?utm_term=.gn5YarpXd#.klkJnav56.
  2. 2. Wright, Robin. 2017. The New Yorker. June 12. Accessed July 15, 2017. http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/mosuls-library-without-books.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Kaphle, Anup. 2017. BuzzFeed News. July 4. Accessed July 15, 2017. https://www.buzzfeed.com/anupkaphle/people-from-all-over-the-world-are-sending-books-to-help?utm_term=.gn5YarpXd#.klkJnav56.

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