Sudan’s rare books and historical documents resided in a library at the Omdurman Ahlia University in Omdurman. As reported by The Continent, the library and all its contents were destroyed in a deliberate fire last month as the country grapples with the ongoing civil war.
The library of the Mohamed Omer Bashir Centre for Sudanese Studies was “one of the most significant repositories of Sudanese history and culture,” according to El Zahraa Jadallah and Tom Rhodes at The Continent.
The library included many original volumes and documents on Sudan’s politics, history and culture, which took decades to gather and compile. Many of the books were donated by the family of researcher and writer Reem Abbas, who remarked:
My family decided to donate all of the books belonging to my great grandfather, Al-Tijani Amer [a writer, politician and civil servant] to the university. When I heard about the destruction, I felt it was a loss on so many levels. . .The motivation is just a way of completely erasing this country’s history and heritage, disempowering its population from the things they valued and the things that connected them to their history and this city in particular.
The loss of Sudan’s history is enormous. Author and former head of the Sudanese Writers Union Osman Shinger added, “The library represented a vital conservation institution for Sudanese heritage.”
When the fire first started, the head of the center Al-Mutassim Ahmed Al-Hajj said he notified the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), the paramilitary group fighting the Sudanese Armed Forces for control of the state. However, he added they did not respond.
Al-Hajj said that this was “a systematic act designed to harm the private university, which is highly symbolic as a beacon for private education in the country”.
According to The New Arab, this library is not the first to be destroyed due to the civil war as other universities, libraries, research centers, and museums are also being looted and vandalized.
The Middle East Eye reported that the National Museum in Khartoum was raided last week by the RSF and fighters were inside the Bolheim Bioarchaeology Laboratory, where thousand-year-old mummies are stored. Meanwhile, NPR added that the Sudan Natural History Museum in Khartoum had to set free rare birds and monkeys from the zoo, who are most probably now dead.
We are keeping the people of Sudan in our thoughts and hope that the war does not destroy any more of Sudan’s history, culture, and lives.