On Wednesday June 6, volunteer and activist Tahani Saleh delivered a presentation in an event cohosted by Kashkul at American University of Iraq, Sulaimani (AUIS) on her efforts to save books from the University of Mosul library as well as raise general awareness of the need to protect and rebuild the institution and it’s collection of texts.
Omar Mohammed, the blogger, historian, and citizen journalist behind the Mosul Eye social media account, joined the discussion via Skype and shared past and present to efforts to revive and rebuild Mosul’s cultural life.
In her presentation, Saleh described how she and other volunteers in Mosul mobilized as soon as Iraqi security forces regained control of eastern Mosul from Islamic State fighters. Volunteers first donated books from their own private collections before expanding their campaign to save books from the University of Mosul. Although security concerns continued to pose a serious threat to civilians in Mosul, the group made its way to the University complex to investigate the state of the library.
“It was dark and cold and full of explosives,” Saleh said, further detailing how volunteers found large piles of rubble and evidence of destruction all over the library building. The group also found remnants of burned books. News stories and first-hand accounts from the time IS controlled the University complex have described how fighters burned books and papers in the library to create smoke cover to avert airstrikes.
As Saleh and her group of volunteers explored more floors of the library, they came upon hidden stashes of books that had survived. Immediately, the group began removing the texts and transferring them to other areas of the University campus for safe keeping.
To celebrate their success, the group held a festival on campus. That event marked the first time live music was played in the University complex in the years since IS’s takeover of Mosul.