'Life wins' as Mosul reopens university library after ISIS destruction

ISIS destroyed the building and its book collection in 2014

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The Iraqi city of Mosul opened its newly-restored Central Library last week, eight years after terrorist group ISIS destroyed it.

Founded in 1921, it was one of the richest libraries in Iraq, second only to the Central Library in Baghdad.

When ISIS took over the city in 2014, the university library was bombarded by missiles and badly damaged. An estimated 8,000 to 10,000 books and ancient manuscripts were destroyed. A treasured archive recognised by Unesco was also damaged.

In all, around 85 per cent of the library's collection was lost.

Unesco called the sabotage “one of the most devastating acts of destruction of library collections in human history”.

The library boasted one million titles before ISIS stormed it and toppled book shelves, burning scores of ancient texts.

The refurbished library was reopened by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) on Saturday.

“Done, mission achieved. The library that Daesh destroyed is officially reconstructed and open with full life,” Iraqi historian Omar Mohammed said, using the alias “Mosul Eye” on Twitter.

“Life Wins,” he said.

For Ali Al Baroodi, a photographer and Mosul University lecturer, the destruction of the library was the “worst thing that happened to me on campus”.

“The Central Library is the beating heart of the campus,” he told The National.

“The campus is still the silver shining of Mosul. It brought all the international community together in one place. The newly joined students will finally find a quiet solace to read.”

The two-storey library is next to a bustling student centre and theatre hall.

It can seat more than 1,000 students and has space for more than 100,000 books. It currently has 32,000.

“The reopening of the Central Library and Ninewa Federal Court of Appeal is an important milestone in the journey to revitalising this iconic city,” UNDP resident representative in Iraq, Zena Ali Ahmad, said.

“I am proud that today, the number of students at the University has surpassed enrollment rates before ISIS occupation by over 40 per cent. This shows the strength and resilience of the city – one that’s well on its way to recovery after years of conflict.”

Updated: February 22, 2022, 12:19 PM
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