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

China Investigates Former Powerful Security Chief

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, under investigation for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership 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.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid