Reopening Ceremony for Tripoli, Lebanon’s Burnt ‘Al-Saeh Library’

A year after the al-Saeh Library bookshop was burned, and an attempt made on the owner’s life, Tripoli residents gathered for an official re-opening ceremony:

From the Al-Saeh Facebook *age.
From the Al-Saeh Facebook page.

The bookshop, which was full of rare titles and manuscripts, as well as tens of thousands of books, was torched last January 3 after rumours circulated that Father Ibrahim Sarrouj, a Greek Orthodox priest and the library’s founder, had written a pamphlet insulting Islam. Others reported that conservative youth had spread rumors that anti-Islam books could be found in the shop.

In any case, the arson attack on the bookshop came in the middle of the night. Before that, Al-Saeh held the second-largest collection of books in Lebanon. A number of rare works were lost in the blaze.

According to Blog Baladi, Al Sa’eh Library was founded in 1970 by the Orthodox Youth movement and consisted of a single room. Over the years, Father Sarrouj collected between 80,000 and 100,000 books and manuscripts, some of which were rare.

Campaigns in Lebanon and the US quickly sprang up to support the bookshop, and the store was put back in good order. An official re-opening was held last Saturday, the one-year anniversary of the arson attack.

According to Al Akbar:

Addressing some 100 Tripoli residents who attended Saturday’s reopening ceremony, Father Sarrouj thanked Kafana Samtan [Enough Silence], civil-society groups, and all the young men and women who helped replenish and rebuild his library, praising the positive role the people of Tripoli played.

Moreover, a short film directed by Lida Kabara, a Tripoli resident, was shown during the ceremony, in addition to statements by those who took part in the fundraising campaign.

The Al-Saeh Facebook announcement also added that others spoke about the campaign and the challenges they have faced, among them political corruption.