Books for Iraq

Filling up the Shelves

A group of Iraqi scientists recently visited Germany in order to promote a project that was initiated by the German Foreign Ministry, the Goethe Institute and the Frankfurt Book Fair. Stefan Winkler reports.

A group of Iraqi scientists recently visited Germany in order to promote a project that was initiated by the German Foreign Office, the Goethe-Institute and the Frankfurt Book Fair. Stefan Winkler reports.

From October 5-18, a group of seven scientists from Iraq visited Germany at the invitation of the Goethe Institute. The president of the Al-Mustansiriya University, three professors from the University of Baghdad, the director of a German language institute, the director of an institute for calligraphy, and a publisher were among those who came to learn about new developments in library science, publishing and universities during an intensive program with representatives from the Frankfurt Book Fair, the Goethe Institute, publishers, libraries, universities and the DAAD.

The group was invited on behalf of the “Books for Iraq” project, which was initiated by the German Foreign Ministry, the Goethe Institute and the Frankfurt book fair.

German Library in Baghdad destroyed by fire

The situation in Iraq’s libraries is disastrous, and it has brought university instruction to a halt. Germany has taken on responsibility and would like to rebuild the German library at the University of Baghdad. Prof. Dr. Fuad Mohammed, director of the German department, was very moved at the news that Germany will donate 10,000 volumes in the reconstruction of the German library. The library was burned down completely, even the instructors’ readers were destroyed. The donation will proceed through next spring. Further initiatives will follow, DAVO (the German Working Group on the Near East) and WUS (World University Service) would like to become involved; Prof. Fuat Sezgin from the Institute for the History of Arabic-Islamic Science has promised a book donation.

The Frankfurt book fair inaugurated the visit of the Iraqi scientists, who were very impressed with the scope and the organization of the fair. They took part in informational events and press conferences, where they spoke about the situation in Iraqi libraries and publishing houses. Receptions with the publishers C.H. Beck and K.G. Saur were on the itinerary. The German Library in Frankfurt and the Bavarian State Library also impressed them with their modern technologies. Usama Al-Naqshabandi hoped to find help for his institute for calligraphy; the calligraphy collection had been partially damaged and the restoration department was destroyed. The institute urgently needs to take measures to develop further training in restoration.

Iraq is in need of books

The Goethe Institute provided information about their program to promote translations. There is a great need for expedited aid free of bureaucratic red tape. The president of the Mustansiriya University, Professor Taher Al-Bakaa, compared the situation of Iraq’s universities to a patient who desperately needs a blood donation. The publisher Ibrahim Al-Rajab from Dar Al-Muthanna, a publishing house with a long tradition, returned to Baghdad with new impressions: “We need new topics and new books in our country,” he concluded.

Stefan Winkler

© 2003

Translation from German: Christina White

Frankfurt Book Fair
German Federal Foreign Office
German Middle East Studies Association

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