How Japanese Children’s Books Came to Mosul

Mosuli historian-blogger Omar Mohammed — who for years wrote pseudonymously as “Mosul Eye” — has been collecting books to rebuild Mosul’s libraries:

Japanese books for Mosul.

Mariko Iino, who works in the Arabic section of the Japan Broadcasting Corporation (NHK), heard about Omar’s project.

“As I speak and write Arabic and have many Arab as well as Japanese friends who travel and work in the area, I came to hear about an Iraqi man who is collecting books to revive the library in Mosul,” she said over email. “I was amazed and searched the name of ‘Mosul Eye’ and wrote to contact address in Arabic. Then I got reply and started to exchange e-mails and calls with the leader, Omar. He told me later he was surprised to get e-mails in Arabic from Japan.”

In June, the two met in Europe, and Mariko produced a segment about Omar that was broadcast in Japanese and in English.

After it aired, Mariko said, “People around me asked me if they could do something for Mosul.”

She added: “I also noted that we received a lot of support when the big earthquakes happened in Japan, even from Iraq. Actually we received encourage messasges from Iraqi kids to our Arabic section then, which made people feel they want to return something….”

Mariko’s friends, who’d also studied Arabic in Syria, asked her to hold a small symposium, at which she talked about the situation in Iraq, about Mosul Eye, and about why Omar wanted books sent to Mosul. She also showed a short video that Omar had filmed outside Yale’s Sterling Memorial Library, where he was doing a fellowship year.

The video’s message, Omar says, was that: “When you send books you are not sending just papers, your are giving us new lives for the books are full of life.”

Mariko translated the film to Japanese, and symposium participants brought their favorite books.

They focused on children’s books, she said, because “Omar talked the importance of education his wish to build children’s libraries in Mosul in the future. Second, we have language gap between Iraq and Japan, and we don’t have so many English books here. If I send Japanese books…we thought pictures would help Iraqi people understand them.”

In the end, they sent 126 books, including books on architecture and art, but most were beloved Japanese picture books.

Once the books arrive, Omar said, there is a library inside the University of Mosul that “we opened in collaboration with the dean of the library, but we sometimes send books to colleges directly to the students can get access to them.”

They still need books, he said, particularly, “Science, architecture, arts, humanities, literature, knowledge, and children’s books.”

Books can be sent to: Mosul Eye campaign Central Library, Mosul University. Mosul, Iraq 41002

Omar can also be contacted via email at: Omar@mosul-eye.org.

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