July 15, 2017

The Bad Ass Librarian from Timbukto

The Librarian Who Took On Al-Qaeda

Protecting one book is easy. Saving 377,000 fragile historic documents from gun-toting vandals hell-bent on erasing centuries of knowledge? That takes a different type of hero.

....the founder of Timbuktu’s Mamma Haidara Library, a scholar and community leader named Abdel Kader Haidara, saw the burning of the manuscripts as a tragedy—and a vindication of a remarkable plan he’d undertaken. Starting with no money besides the meager sum in his savings account, the librarian had recruited a loyal circle of volunteers, badgered and shamed the international community into funding the scheme, raised $1 million, and hired hundreds of amateur smugglers in Timbuktu and beyond. Their goal? Save books.
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In a low-tech operation that seemed quaint in the second decade of the 21st century, Haidara and his team had transported to safety, by river and by road, past hostile jihadi guards and suspicious Malian soldiers, past bandits, attack helicopters, and other lethal obstacles, almost all of Timbuktu’s 377,000 manuscripts. Not one had been lost en route. “Abdel Kader and I experienced something I have trouble describing. Power, strength, perseverance can’t adequately articulate what it was,” Brady said in an interview on Reddit. “We kept thinking that we had to lose some manuscripts—theft, bandits, belligerents … combat, books in canoes on the Niger River—we had to lose some, right? Well, we didn’t. Not a single manuscript was compromised during the evacuation—nada, zero. They all made it.”

From The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu: And Their Race to Save the World’s Most Precious Manuscripts, by Joshua Hammer. Copyright © 2016

 Timbuktu Haidara Librarian
YouTube link

From a review, The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu is the wonderfully gripping story of Abdel Kader Haidara and the hundreds of ordinary Malians who, at great personal danger, endeavored to save the ancient fabled manuscripts of Timbuktu from destruction by Islamic jihadists. It is also an inspirational reminder that, even as the forces of barbarism extend their thrall across so much of the Muslim world, there are still those willing to risk everything to preserve civilization.
Posted by Jill Fallon at July 15, 2017 12:08 PM | Permalink