Hundreds, if not thousands, of Iraqis attended the first post-Islamic State reading festival in Mosul last week, following the recapture of the city:
Mosul is a city with a long, vibrant reading culture, although IS shut down, ransacked, and burned books and libraries.
But following the city’s recapture, the grounds of the University of Mosul, in eastern Mosul, were the setting of the city’s first post-IS reading festival, organized by volunteers, who collected thousands of books from publishers, citizens, and bookshop owners across Iraq. According to al-Bawaba, publishers donated more than 10,000 books.
According to photographer Ali Y. Al-Baroodi, who tweeted from the festival, 7000 books were given to the crowds, and 6000 to the library, now being rebuilt.
The festival also included live music, readings, crafts, and art.
When it captured Mosul in June 2014, the Islamic State seized the main library and made a show of destroying its many books and manuscripts. “The destruction is complete,” Obay al-Dewachi, president of the University of Mosul, told Al-Fanar Media. “Almost 100 percent of the university’s library and holdings were destroyed.”
Renowned novelist Mahmoud Saeed, back in 2015, shared memories of the great public library of Mosul, saying, “The public library in Mosul is what has made me a writer. It was located in the most beautiful place at that time, in the forties and fifties, on the right bank of the Tigris, near the King Ghazi iron bridge. The building overlooked the river.”
Worse, Al-Fanar Media reported:
Most of the library’s holdings of about one million books were destroyed when U.S.-led coalition fighters launched an air strike on the library in March of 2016 because coalition forces believed it was being used as an Islamic State command center. In January of this year, as Iraqi forces reclaimed the university campus, Islamic State set fire to the library, apparently to destroy evidence about its operations.
The campaign to rebuild the university library began in February, shortly after IS was driven out of the eastern part of the city, led by Iraqi blogger “Mosul Eye.”
Publisher Faiza Sultan, who attended university in Mosul in the mid-1990s, said in 2015 that “the university has one of the greatest and biggest libraries in the Middle East. It was my sanctuary when I studied, and where I got all my resources.”
Scenes from the September 6 reading festival:
More video: First Reading Festival Launched in Mosul