Tuesday, August 31, 2021

"Owning a library was the most important thing for him in life"

The final withdrawal of United States troops from Afghanistan this month has been a devastating process on so many fronts, not least for the shattered families of the 13 U.S. service members and approximately 70 Afghan citizens who were killed in an airport suicide bombing on Aug. 26. 

There are so many personal stories intertwined with the withdrawal. This is just a small, poignant one that caught my eye. Obaid Mahdi posted this book-related tweet on Aug. 27 about his father's library in Kabul.

Here's a closer look at the before and after photographs.
There's an article about the evacuated library on the website Kronos, written by Gülnur Hasesoǧlu. Unfortunately, it's in Turkish. So I had to use Google Translate to get the gist of the story. Here are some details I could glean from the imperfect English translation:

  • Writer Obaid Mahdi shared on his Twitter account the library of his father, Mohaiddin Mahdi, a professor and writer from Afghanistan, before and after the Taliban took over Kabul. The tweet showing the full and empty states of the library was shared by more than ten thousand people around the world, and it became the symbol of the "change" that came with the Taliban. “This library represents a generation that is no longer around,” Mahdi told Kronos.
  • Obaid Mahdi, who has been in France the past three years, said the library dates back more than 50 years, having been started by his grandfather. His 65-year-old father left a few days before the Taliban took over Kabul. The thousands of books, plus some artifacts, are now hidden elsewhere in Afghanistan. The family plans to take the library abroad and re-establish it.
  • The library includes books from Turkey, Iran, India, Tajikistan and Pakistan. There are handwritten books, history, literature and poetry, plus books about multiple religions. One of the books is 750 years old.
  • Mohaiddin Mahdi is a researcher who loves his books. He values them not only as a library for his own research, but for everyone else who can benefit from them. "Owning a library was the most important thing for him in life," Obaid Mahdi said of his father.
  • Obaid Mahdi summed up: “This library was not only for ourselves, it represented the generation of people of culture in Afghanistan different from the Taliban. People who engage in books, knowledge and research. Now these people are disappearing."

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