A youth project in Mosul has been implemented in which a library was set up outside showcasing a variety of books, hoping to encourage citizens to read in the absence of formal library space.
Throughout its centuries-long history, which dates back to the Ancient era, Mosul has always been known as a key city for culture, science and literature. Mosul is rich in old historical places and ancient buildings: mosques, castles, churches, monasteries, and schools, many of which have architectural features and decorative work of significance. From the Sumerian cities to Babylon, from the walls of Nineveh to the Silk Road, the region has been a melting pot of people and ideas.
However, all of this was threatened existentially when ISIS captured the city in 2014, triggering a three-year battle to liberate it from the militant group. Almost no building emerged from the siege unscathed, and Iraq’s second city lost many of its libraries during ISIS’ occupation of the city.
One man, Ibrahim Abdullah, stood outside the University of Mosul’s destroyed library, explained that a makeshift “pavement library” has been set up outside by a youth volunteer project in a bid to compensate for the destruction that occurred in the libraries of Najafi Street and the loss of cultural artefacts in Mosul more generally. It mirrors those found in Baghdad, such on the famous Mutanabi Street.
The sidewalk library is set up every Friday in front of the University, as literature lectures and cultural activities are also offered to restore a sense of intellectual engagement even in the absence of proper infrastructure following the destruction caused to the city by ISIS and the battle to defeat them. Another activist, Emad Zakar, told reporters that the initiative aims to “challenge terrorism and ignorance, and send a message to the whole world that Mosul is the city of culture and science”.
So far, the pavement library has been drawing a lot of attention from the public, and every Friday new faces appear to see what it has to offer. It is hoped that the initiative will shortly be expanded to accommodate for the increased interest.