Militia Destroys Ancient Libraries in Mali

Posted on September 19, 2012


I recently posted on the assault on cultural heritage in Mali. A recent article in Newsweek Magazine reports that the situation has continued to worsen.

The radical, Tuareg-led militia – which calls itself Ansar Eddine – is now enforcing brutal laws including the stoning of adulterers, mutilation of thieves, and veiling of all women. As part of their reign, the Ansar Eddine is destroying the region’s movable cultural heritage and leveling the historic monuments and shrines of Timbuktu.

One important piece of cultural heritage located in Timbuktu is a collection of an estimated 700,000 ancient manuscripts, a testament to the important center of Islamic scholarship Timbuktu once was. Thanks to the extremely dry conditions, many of these have survived.  Thousands of ancient manuscripts were buried in times of conflict, and have been recently excavated. Until the current conflict began, researchers in Timbuktu worked to scan, archive, and study as many of the manuscripts as possible.

While it is unclear whether the Ansar Eddine has destroyed these ancient manuscripts, reports indicate that libraries and research centers have been pillaged and sold into the illicit antiquity trade.

BBC correspondent Thomas Fessy predicts a grim future for the region. Said Fessy, “I think in the short and mid-term, it is very had to see anything but a picture that will grow darker and darker.”

Hat tip to Derek Fincham