The city of Mosul lies in ruins after a devastating battle between Iraqi state forces and the ISIS—but its citizens, and its books, are refusing to give up just yet.
Shortly after taking over the city in 2014, ISIS set the University of Mosul’s central library aflame. The blaze destroyed thousands of precious books and manuscripts, including a Koran from the ninth century. The future of Mosul, let alone its libraries, looked bleak. Fortunately, a few brave souls fought to save the library and its legacy of knowledge and tolerance. Even before the liberation of the entire city, volunteers were able to salvage roughly 2,000 books—an impressive harvest, but not nearly enough to restore what had been lost.
Image courtesy of Reuters
Enter Mosul Eye, anonymous blogger and documenter of the three-year occupation of his city. A graduate and former teacher at the University of Mosul, Mosul Eye has led the effort to rebuild the library despite the fact that he fled in 2016. A historian by trade, the blogger has fond memories of the old library: “When I didn’t like my professors’ lectures, I often went to the library to do research and study books on my own,” he told BuzzFeed.
With help from friends on the ground, Mosul Eye has spread the library’s cause throughout Iraq as well as across the world. A book sale was organized in the Baghdad market, with the books sold then donated to replenish the new library. Books have also been transported from Europe, Australia, and the United States. The collectors have received nearly 10,000 books, and they need 200,000 before they can call their library complete. To reach this goal, the organizers must navigate the tricky logistics that come with getting thousands of books into a recently war-torn town, such as arranging “transportation for the books” and providing “a space once the books get there” Mosul Eye stated. He also organized a cultural festival in front of the ruins of the old library, in which attendees were able to enjoy art and music in exchange for donating a book; hundreds of books were collected.
Image courtesy of BuzzFeed
Much more is still needed, Mosul Eye notes, especially books on medicine, science, and the humanities. However, the significance of the library goes beyond mere physical leather and paper. “We need to reconnect Mosul again with the rest of the world,” Mosul Eye said. “Don’t abandon us now.”
Featured Image courtesy of BBC.