This article first appeared on the BookBrunch site earlier this month. They have kindly allowed us to reproduce it.
Jane Tappuni, IPR License General Manager, serves on the development board of Book Aid International and was pleased to be a part of this event held on 17th June at the British Library.
Book Aid International thanks trade for support so far in campaign to rebuild library torched by Isis, but more books still needed
Four years ago the library in Mosul, northern Iraq, was destroyed by Isis, and now Book Aid International, together with publisher partners and the University of Liverpool, is helping rebuild it. In an event held last night (17th June) in the Kings Gallery of the British Library, Dr Alaa Hamdon, founder of the Mosul Book Bridge Campaign that in March 2017 put out a call for help, together with other colleagues from Mosul University, thanked everyone for their support so far.
Book Aid International was one of the first organisations to respond to the plea for aid, and in March this year an initial consignment of 3,700 new books arrived, having travelled through 11 different countries; a second consignment of 5,700 books, donated as before by British publishers, is now on the way.
In total Book Aid International, which relies entirely on donations from companies and individuals, has shipped 33m books to schools, libraries, prisons and refugee camps around the world, 1.3m of them in the last year.
Last night Alison Tweed, Book Aid International ceo, revealed that she has just set the ambitious target of sending 50,000 books to the Mosul University library, a task that will require £100,000 to achieve as well as the continued support of publishers and individuals.
This was, therefore, “a party with a purpose,” said the Rt Hon Lord Paul Boateng PC DL, chair of Book Aid International. The charity was “so pleased to be helping realise that . vision which is the complete restoration of the Mosul University library. But it doesn’t just happen, it happens because people care, it happens because people come together to strategise, to plot and to scheme to get more books into the hands of yet more people so that books can do the things that books do.”
The guest speaker was John Simpson CBE, introduced by Boateng as “a man of integrity, passion and fierce and searching intellect who has reported for 140 countries and interviewed 200 world leaders – and someone who can be trusted to tell the truth about what’s going on in the world today.”
Simpson had, he said, reported on the sad destruction of three libraries in his career. The first was the national library in Bucharest in 1989, “when tanks fired at the library building because they thought, wrongly, that there were snipers on the roof.” The second was three years later, in Sarajevo, probably on purpose, while the third was the library in Mosul. “I realise,” he said, “that the destruction of one building shouldn’t be any more shocking than another, but when you destroy a library and when you destroy it on purpose in order to get rid of the ideas that the books within it represent, then you’re looking at something that is particularly painful….even evil.”
With the rebuilding of Mosul now well underway, and the libraries in both Bucharest and Sarajevo restored, “Thank God” said Simpson, “for the people who care enough about books to supply what was destroyed. And that’s the revenge that we can have on what they did – we can show that they actually can’t destroy ideas, that books are going back there.”
“I can’t help thinking,” he added, “it would make a really good documentary, and believe me tomorrow I will be selling it…”
With Tweed’s challenge to the assembled Book Aid International supporters to help achieve her vision of 50,000 books for Mosul, Boateng ended the evening with a phrase used by Zulu speakers when facing a tough challenge: “vukuzenzele – just work it out.”