News / Africa

Rebels Torch Mali Library of Historic Manuscripts

Aboubakar Yaro, head of conservation at the Djenne Library of Manuscipts, holds an Islamic manuscript from the 15th century, September 1, 2012.
Aboubakar Yaro, head of conservation at the Djenne Library of Manuscipts, holds an Islamic manuscript from the 15th century, September 1, 2012.
VOA News
Mayor Halley Ousmane of Mali's fabled city of Timbuktu says Islamist militants torched a library containing thousands of ancient Arab manuscripts, as they retreated from the city this week.

Experts are uncertain of the extent of damage at the Ahmed Baba Institute.  But they fear many priceless documents have been destroyed.

The institute is one of several libraries in Timbuktu.  It contains about 30,000 manuscripts, many of them collected from private family libraries throughout the country.  Some of the fragile documents are bound by camel hide.

Some of the documents date back to the 13th century, a time when Timbuktu was a trading hub and center of Islamic scholarship.

In a VOA interview, Michael Covitt, chairman of Malian Manuscript Foundation, said the manuscripts cover a wide variety of topics.

“The manuscripts cover pretty much every science under the sun, from astronomy to astrology to numerology to mathematics to medicine to jurisprudence,” he said.

Covitt, whose foundation digitally preserves Malian manuscripts, says "wisdom of the ages" could potentially be lost as a result of the fire.

"It is the treasure not only the family but all the world.  It’s probably the most important documents and legacy of intellectual pursuit discovered since the 20th century with the Dead Sea Scrolls,” he said.

Douglas Post Park, the Co-Director of the Saharan Archaeological Research Association, says the destruction of Timbuktu's manuscripts would amount to a "crime against culture."

The Ahmed Baba Institute opened a new building in 2009, with the help of funding from South Africa.

UNESCO, the U.N. cultural agency, lists Timbuktu as a World Heritage site for its ancient mosques and shrines.

Islamist group Ansar Dine destroyed a number of ancient mausoleums in Timbuktu during the months it ruled the city.


 
  • This March 16, 2004 photo shows an unidentified worker looking after some of the 20,000 preserved ancient Islamic manuscripts which rest in air-conditioned rooms at the Ahmed Baba Institute in Timbuktu, Mali.
  • This March 16, 2004 shows some of the 20,000 preserved ancient Islamic manuscripts which rest in air-conditioned rooms are displayed at the Ahmed Baba Institute in Timbuktu, Mali.
  • This March 16, 2004 shows Alhousseini Ould Alfadrou, 16, singing verses from crumbling ancient Islamic manuscripts in a mud-walled house in Timbuktu, Mali.
  • This May 1, 2012 photo shows men work near one of Timburktu's historic mud mosques.
  • This April 11, 2012 photo shows people walking past the Sankore Mosque, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, in Timbuktu, Mali.
  • This April 15, 2012 shows town notables and two leaders of the Tuareg separatist NMLA in front of Sankore Mosque, a UNESCO World Heritage site, in Timbuktu, Mali.
  • This May 1, 2012 photo shows a woman in front of a traditionally decorated door in Timbuktu, Mali.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

You May Like

Lion Cecil's Killing Sparks 'Canned Hunting' Debate in S. Africa

Conservationists believe incident, which triggered worldwide outrage, will reshape debate about practice in which hunters are allowed to target animals bred for hunting More

Taliban's New Leader Says Jihad Will Continue

Top US Afghan diplomat also meets with Pakistani, Afghan officials following news of Mullah Omar's death More

Environmentalists Issue Warning on Mekong Biodiversity

Scientists say decades of economic development, hydropower-dam construction, lax law enforcement and trafficking have taken their toll More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Victoria Heim from: Colorado
January 29, 2013 5:06 PM
As a historian and poet I am sad about this news.
We must now be pro active and put the World's history
out of harm's way.

by: Wiseman
January 29, 2013 1:25 PM
"Crime agains Culture" Really, the documents should have been scanned and stored abroard. However there are far more REAL CRISES in Africa such as ethnic violence resulting in numerous loss of lives, eg Uganda, Congo, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Somalia, and others. Anyone concerned out there? silence?

by: Viki from: Czech
January 29, 2013 11:17 AM
This is the illustration of stupidity of some people and unfortunate impact of religion.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missionsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
July 30, 2015 8:59 PM
Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.

VOA Blogs