Iraq Dispatch: The Guardians of Culture

David Shook at The Believer:

Much has been written about the courageous rebuilding of the Iraqi libraries destroyed by the Islamic State during its occupation of Mosul and other cities in the region. In adjacent Kurdish Iraq, the centuries-old struggle to build a repository of Kurdish culture and history has primarily and often necessarily continued with little visibility or fanfare, undertaken by willful idealists and brave individualists. Recently, I visited Zheen Archive Center, and met the people making that dream a reality. Here, two optimistic, broadminded brothers and an all-women team of crack manuscript preservationists are building a collection of books, manuscripts, and papers that have survived hundreds of years of language bans and the mass destruction of property that accompanied the countless murders of Saddam Hussein’s 1980s genocidal campaign, Anfal. Zheen—which means “life” in the Sorani dialect of Kurdish—houses the greatest collection of Kurdish cultural material of any other institution in the four contemporary nation-states that comprise the region of the Kurds, and probably the world. Remarkably, the Salih brothers formally founded Zheen in just 2004, and only acquired their present location, the nondescript four-story office building that houses its archives in northwest Sulaimani, in 2009.

more here.