A library in Mosul, Iraq, that was established nearly a century ago in 1921, was destroyed by ISIS over the weekend. The explosions and flames took with them over 8,000 manuscripts, newspapers, and artifacts, many of them rare and old.
The Mosul Public Library was regarded as one of the city’s landmarks, rich in history and frequented by many. In its long history, it closed multiple times, but was always brought back by the efforts of its community.
The library was even partially destroyed and looted during the U.S. invasion in 2003, but many of its works were saved and bought back by locals. But according to Yahoo, many of its precious belongings are gone for good now that ISIS has had its way.
“Among its lost collections were manuscripts from the eighteenth century, Syriac books printed in Iraq’s first printing house in the nineteenth century, books from the Ottoman era, Iraqi newspapers from the early twentieth century and some old antiques like an astrolabe and sand glass used by ancient Arabs. The library had hosted the personal libraries of more than 100 notable families from Mosul over the last century.”
Mosul locals reportedly tried to convince ISIS members not to burn down the library, but were unsuccessful.
ISIS has taken over a number of cities and have targeted and killed everyone from Christians to other Muslims. When Mosul was taken over by ISIS, many Christians fled.
During the same weekend the library was burned, ISIS also destroyed the Virgin Mary Church in the same city. In both cases, they used a number of improvised explosives. ISIS members have also burned other libraries in the past, like Mosul University’s Central Library, seeking to remove anything that isn’t Islamic literature. One militant reportedly explained, “These books promote infidelity and call for disobeying Allah. So they will be burned.”
Meanwhile, Mosul’s community mourns the loss of its library and literature. Akil Kata, who left Mosul years ago, remembers taking trips to the library.
“What a pity! We used to go to the library in the 1970s. It was one of the greatest landmarks of Mosul. I still remember the special pieces of paper where the books’ names were listed alphabetically.”
All in all, Iraqi officials say that ISIS has managed to destroy roughly 100,000 titles. According to the Associated Press, a professor from Mosul University, speaking anonymously for fear of retribution, added that ISIS wants to “change the face of this city… by erasing its iconic buildings and history.” This does not appear to be an exaggeration; given ISIS’ blatant desire to destroy history and literature, they seem only intent on continuing this effort throughout the region.
There are currently plans for Iraqi and Kurdish forces to move into Mosul to take it back from ISIS, but that may not happen until April or May. Mosul may be able to rebuild its iconic libraries after ISIS is forced out, but for now they will have to wait.
[Photo by LearningLark/Flickr]