People of Timbuktu save manuscripts from invaders

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For eight days after the Islamists set fire to one of the world’s most precious collections of ancient manuscripts, the alarm inside the building blared. It was an eerie, repetitive beeping, a cry from the innards of the injured library that echoed around the world.

The al-Qaida-linked extremists who ransacked the institute wanted to deal a final blow to Mali, whose northern half they had held for 10 months before retreating in the face of a French-led military advance. They also wanted to deal a blow to the world, especially France, whose capital houses the headquarters of UNESCO, the organization which recognized and elevated Timbuktu’s monuments to its list of World Heritage sites.

So as they left, they torched the Ahmed Baba Institute of Higher Learning and Islamic Research, aiming to destroy a heritage of 30,000 manuscripts that date back to the 13th century.

“These manuscripts are our identity,” said Abdoulaye Cisse, the library’s acting director. “It’s through these manuscripts that we have been able to reconstruct our own history, the history of Africa . People think that our history is only oral, not written. What proves that we had a written history are these documents.”

The first people who spotted the column of black smoke on Jan. 23 were the residents whose homes surround the library, and they ran to tell the center’s employees. The bookbinders, manuscript restorers and security guards who work for the institute broke down and cried.

Just about the only person who didn’t was Cisse, the acting director, who for months had harbored a secret. Starting last year, he and a handful of associates had conspired to save the documents so crucial to this 1,000-year-old town.

Written By: Rukmini Callimachi
continue to source article at bigstory.ap.org

12 COMMENTS

  1. Agreed.

    In reply to #5 by Katy Cordeth:

    In reply to #4 by Kim Probable:

    Cheers for lovers of books. =)

    And jeers for anyone anywhere who thinks book burning is in an acceptable thing to do:

    Pastor Terry Jones Burns quran again!

  2. In reply to #1 by crookedshoes:

    This story should be made into a movie with Abba Alhadi et al serving as the heroic protagonists and these freedom haters cast as the cowardly enemies of mankind that they are.

    The people of Timbuctu have always been book lovers, Abba Alhadi will probably become a folk hero and, who knows, end up with a local mausoleum more lasting (hopefully) than a movie, though that would be a good idea too.

    Stranger are the “cowardly enemies of mankind”. In fact I think they’re just the last specimens of a long line of enemies of all human culture.

    Goes all the way back to the Chinese Qin emperor who burned all the books an buried the scholars alive (210BC), through the 4 or 5 pagan, christian and moslem burners of the library of Alexandria, the Savonarolas (TNTC), Nazis, Communists, etc…

    They fear, hate and destroy anything knowledgeable, wise, true, beautiful, tender or benevolent.

    They do this for “THE TRUTH”. And their “TRUTH” is just a collection of simplistic rules on dress codes, what to eat and when, how to piss, a very mechanical set of instructions, like how to assemble a prefab IKEA cupboard, which bolt to put where, no discussion allowed, and of course a repeat-after-me moronic Credo, ever the same.

    What a piteous, wilted and shrunken bit of humanity they are! The nearest thing to hardwired and mindless insect behavior our species can offer.

    The sad thing is that they will probably always will be with us…Unless they are cowered into submission. Three cheers for Hollande and the French Army.

  3. Well stated. I “liked” your entry and echo your sentiment. I am also a book lover and book discusser, and book suggester, and book preserver…etc…

    I wish I knew as much about it (as you) so that I could actually converse with you on a meaningful level. Suffice it to say, I “believe” in heroes and hold these individuals up as evidence. It is kinda sad that “a movie” is my plan for praising them… Your opinion and ideas are better than mine — I defer… A mausoleum; a forever monument!!! Here here.

    crooked

    In reply to #7 by jpgj:

    In reply to #1 by crookedshoes:

    This story should be made into a movie with Abba Alhadi et al serving as the heroic protagonists and these freedom haters cast as the cowardly enemies of mankind that they are.

    The people of Timbuctu have always been book lovers, Abba Alhadi will probably become a folk hero and, who knows, end up with a local mausoleum more lasting (hopefully) than a movie, though that would be a good idea too.

    Stranger are the “cowardly enemies of mankind”. In fact I think they’re just the last specimens of a long line of enemies of all human culture.

    Goes all the way back to the Chinese Qin emperor who burned all the books an buried the scholars alive (210BC), through the 4 or 5 pagan, christian and moslem burners of the library of Alexandria, the Savonarolas (TNTC), Nazis, Communists, etc…

    They fear, hate and destroy anything knowledgeable, wise, true, beautiful, tender or benevolent.

    They do this for “THE TRUTH”. And their “TRUTH” is just a collection of simplistic rules on dress codes, what to eat and when, how to piss, a very mechanical set of instructions, like how to assemble a prefab IKEA cupboard, which bolt to put where, no discussion allowed, and of course a repeat-after-me moronic Credo, ever the same.

    What a piteous, wilted and shrunken bit of humanity they are! The nearest thing to hardwired and mindless insect behavior our species can offer.

    The sad thing is that they will probably always will be with us…Unless they are cowered into submission. Three cheers for Hollande and the French Army.

  4. In reply to #5 by Katy Cordeth:

    And jeers for anyone anywhere who thinks book burning is in an acceptable thing to do:
    Pastor Terry Jones Burns quran again!

    The objection here is the actual and attempted vandalism of a world heritage site and its contents, NOT the method chosen by the vandals. Let’s try and keep our eye on the ball, shall we? Burning private property is a perfectly lawful and moral thing to do. Otherwise fire-starter manufacturers would be in a whole world of trouble.

  5. In reply to #9 by ANTIcarrot:

    The objection here is the actual and attempted vandalism of a world heritage site and its contents, NOT the method chosen by the vandals. Let’s try and keep our eye on the ball, shall we? Burning private property is a perfectly lawful and moral thing to do. Otherwise fire-starter manufacturers would be in a whole world of trouble.

    I’m not sure what a fire-starter manufacturer is. Unless you’re referring to Stephen King’s publishers or the good people who distribute The Prodigy’s material, I’m going to go ahead and assume you mean firelighters.

    I confess the rest of your post is also unclear to me. It almost sounds like you’re defending book burning. Let me assure you, there’s nothing lawful about this practice, and certainly nothing moral about it.

    As to the method employed, there we’re in agreement: the motive behind the destruction of these manuscripts is the important thing. If Terry Jones and the Islamists had put the objects of their disdain into shredders rather than setting them alight, it would have been with the same intent.

  6. As the excellent Charlie Brooker noted last night on his Charlie Brooker’s Weekly Wipe programme on BBC2, maybe they burn so many libraries because they think the Dewey system was invented by Jews.

  7. In reply to #1 by crookedshoes:

    This story should be made into a movie with Abba Alhadi et al serving as the heroic protagonists and these freedom haters cast as the cowardly enemies of mankind that they are.

    You beat me to it. It would be perfect! I third or fourth or fifth the motion. I can already see it in my head. I’m sure it will happen.

    I only wish this man could get help to learn to read. To be surrounded by these books and to care for them for decades he must have realized their importance and had hopes to read them. I feel a bit sad that he cannot read. I bet the best reward he would most appreciate would be to get a tutor or eye care or help for whatever was holding him back. Of course, this is just my guess maybe he could care less to learn to read, but I want him to read.

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