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Tripoli's Torched Library Finally Re-Opens in Lebanon

Categories: Middle East & North Africa, Lebanon, Arts & Culture, Education, History
Father Sarrouj at the opening ceremony (Al Saeh Facebook Page)

Father Sarrouj at the opening ceremony (Al Saeh Facebook Page)

When the Al-Saeh [1] library of Tripoli's Father Ibrahim Sarrouj was torched [2] by unknown assailants last January 2014, and his own life was put on the line, community members and Lebanese of all stripes responded by launching an online fundraiser [3] entitled ‘Kafana Samtan (Enough Silence): Help Rebuild Lebanon's Torched Library And Restore 10,000s of Lost Ancient Books”.

This was Kafana Samtan's message [3] at the time:

Al Saeh Library is a 40-year-old bookshop founded by Father Ibrahin Sarrouj, located in the old city souks of Tripoli in northern Lebanon. The Library contains more than 87 thousand titles, including rare books and precious religious scrolls.
For the past few years, businessmen with political connections have continued to pressure Father Sarrouj to close the library. On January 3rd 2014, the library was then burned by a group of ignorant people. As a first reaction, hundreds of people gathered and participated in a sit-in the day after the burning, and began donating money and books to save the library and bring it back better than before.
The campaign, named “Kafana Samtan,” is now moving forward by the people's support, without any political and sectarian backing, and made the decision to restore the library so it can again be opened to the public soon.

According to security sources at the time, up to 78,000 of those books were not salvageable, though the exact number was never released. AFP reported [4] that up to “two thirds” of “irreplaceable ancient Muslim and Christian texts and manuscripts were destroyed”.

This attack on a symbol of knowledge and tolerance shocked the country and political and religious leaders of all parties and sects condemned it. And barely a month after the attack, Kafana Samtan announced that the project was successfully funded thanks to 306 people who donated anywhere from $5 to $100. The $35,000 required to rebuilt it was raised.

Therefore, on January 3, 2015, exactly a year after the attack, Tripoli's residents woke up to the news that the library was finally re-opening again. A ceremony (pictures available here [5]) with Father Sarrouj was organized in the presence of local religious and political leaders as well as many Tripolitans.