The Middle East Librarians Committee on Iraqi Libraries has received permission to publish the following two reports, one on the damage done to the Central library of Baghdad University / Al-Waziriyya, the second on the Central Awqaf library in Baghdad. The two reports were written by one of the most energetic archivists working in Iraq today, Mr. Zain Al-Naqshbandi. He is primarily responsible for the investigation and content of the two reports. The report on the Waqf library is certified by Mr. Salah Karim Hussein, the head of the Library, Mr. Asim Dawud Al-Khattab, a specialist in libraries (with five degrees in library and information science) and Mr. Muhibb Al-Din Yasin Ibrahim, one of the employees of the manuscripts section of the Awqaf library who was able to save 109 manuscripts, and find a further five in the post-looting stage. The reports were transmitted to the committee by Hala Fattah, who also prepared the English translations.
The English translations are following by images of the original Arabic documents.
n.b. Photographs taken by Nabil al-Tikriti of the damage to the Central Awqaf library in Baghdad appear among Pictures of Damaged Libraries in Iraq.
This is the oldest turathi (heritage) and cultural institution in Iraq. Its collection consists of waqfiyyas (endowment documents) of important personages and contains 6,500 mss in all fields of knowledge. The library also had a collection of 45,000 printed books, of which 6,000 were books in the Ottoman script. There were also three collections of medical books in the Central Awqaf library; each collection possessed close to 4,000 medical books. ONLY 5,000 MSS REMAIN. THE REST HAVE BEEN LOOTED OR COMPLETELY BURNED.
The materials that were stolen from the Library:
What was burned:
No party or humanitarian organization has helped in returning this civilizational (turathi) legacy to Iraq. We appeal to honorable people to offer their services to this library which is counted as one of the oldest cultural institutions in Iraq, taking into consideration the fact that the conditions in this library are the same as those in other Iraqi libraries, whether burned or not burned. The Central Awqaf library must be rebuilt, renovated and refurbished according to the most up-to-date international standards in terms of library collections, equipment and furniture. These include all services and a fully equipped library (with photocopying machines, microfilm readers etc.etc) Internet facilities, digital cameras and other such equipment so that the library can offer its services to its readers and researchers in the proper manner.
Signed by Salah Karim Husain, the Director of the Library; Asim Dawud Al-Khattab, library expert (with five international degrees in library science), and Muhib Al-Din Yassin Ibrahim, an employee in the mss section who rescued (an untold number of) mss from the Iraqi Scientific Academy ( al-majma' al-ilmi al-iraqi), 109 missing mss ( I'm not sure if he means that they belonged to the majma' or to the Central Awqaf library; the text is unclear) and found 5 missing mss (again, I'm not sure in which library).
The library was established in 1959, and is considered the second largest library in Baghdad after the National Library. It comprises three-quarter-of-a million publications consisting of the greatest reference works in the Arabic language and foreign languages, as well as periodicals, and many individual titles. It is also the chief repository for Master's theses and PhD dissertations produced at Baghdad University. Finally, it holds several ancient books, especially foreign ones.
What was Stolen and Burned:
What was Burned:
Omissions, Suggestions and Demands:
The Fight Against the White Ants / Termites (urdha) that have Burrowed into the Library Walls: ( Translator's Note: The English name for this wood-eating worm is white ant; it is a worm that burrows in the walls of buildings and literally eats through them; Iraq is infested with them. They are thought to be the result of the importation of Asian woods in the thirties and forties).
Because the colleges (on the campus of Baghdad University, Bab al-Muazzam/al-Waziriyya such as the College of Education / Ibn Rushd, College of Education / Ibn al-Haytham, the College of Arts and Sciences, the College of Languages, the College of Journalism / Media Studies, and the College of Islamic Sciences) were not moved to al-Jadiriyya (the central campus), the library of the Bab al-Muazzam / al-Waziriyya campus should be separated from the library on al-Jadiriyya campus, both administratively and financially. There was in fact a separation of both libraries from 1991 to 1995. At that time, there was a race between the two library administrations to maximize and to develop library services, each in their fields. There is a feeling between researchers and staff at the Baghdad University library in al-Waziriya / Bab al-Muazzam that this library is neglected, so much so that the Head of the Library only visits it each month.
The question that immediately imposes itself is why should the interests of thousands of students, researchers and professors be hurt by the move of the library to al-Jadiriya campus.
Middle East Librarians Association Committee on Iraqi Libraries
The MELA Committee on Iraqi Libraries web presence is produced in collaboration with the LOST TREASURES FROM IRAQ project at The Oriental Institute, University of Chicago, and is hosted at the Institute's website.
Revised: October 4, 2004
Copyright © 2004 Oriental Institute, University of Chicago; Middle East Librarians Association Committee on Iraqi Libraries