Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Cultural genocide 1992, article

The Independent (London) [Foreign News, p. 15]
August 21, 2000, Monday

Sarajeva - Heritage reduced to ashes as Serbs tried to wipe Muslims from history

THE ACRID smell of burning still wafts up as Lejla Gazic carefully unwraps a package containing charred fragments of yellowing paper. The burnt scraps, detailing housing construction in the Ottoman era, are some of the few extant records to survive the Serb bombardment of Sarajevo's Oriental Institute in May 1992.

Once the institute's collection filled 18 steel cases. Now these scorched remnants of a nation's history, together with a few handfuls of books and other records, barely fill the shelves of a single metal filing cabinet.

The institute's staff such as Ms Gazic are working with their colleagues abroad, as they catalogue and classify the few surviving records, and try to rebuild the institute's collection. "Less than 1 per cent of our collections has survived. We are preparing four books, cataloguing what is left. Archivists in Germany have catalogued some of our lost manuscripts, so now we have a record of the memory of our lost manuscripts," said Ms Gazic.

The reconstruction of the archives started after the war. But Ms Gazic and her colleagues know that however much can be reconstructed, an irreplaceable part of Europe's heritage is gone for ever. The destruction of the Oriental Institute was one of the most shocking acts of the Bosnian war that lasted from spring 1992 to December 1995. Bosnian Serb gunners deliberately targeted the building, which housed the largest collection of Ottoman, Islamic and Jewish manuscripts in south-east Europe. It was an attempt to wipe out not just Bosnia's Muslim population, but the very idea of the nation itself.

Incendiary shells were used to ensure the institute's collection was burnt as rapidly as possible. In those flames perished a priceless part of Europe's heritage, including 5,263 bound manuscripts in Arabic, Persian, Hebrew and Adzamijski, Bosnian Slavic written in Arabic; 7,000 Ottoman documents that catalogued centuries of Bosnian history as well as many thousands of other records and books, and works of poetry and literature.

Institute officials say the manuscripts were not moved to a safe place because nobody could then imagine they would be targeted. "It was the beginning of the war. Nobody could imagine that archives and books would be burnt. You can imagine that people might fight each other for some reason but not that they would burn someone's heritage. The cases fell right through to the second floor. When we opened them, there were ashes inside," said Ms Gazic.

The destruction of the institute's collection is a loss not just for Bosnia but for Europe and the world. Bosnia was at the northern end of the Ottoman empire - which lasted from the early 14th century to the 1920s - in contact with Venice and Dubrovnik.

Three months later, in August 1992, the gunners targeted the National and University Library, and once again the air over Sarajevo filled with charred fragments. Dr Kemal Bakarsic, librarian of the National Museum, said then: "All over the city, sheets of burning paper, fragile pages of grey ashes, floated down like a dirty black snow. Catching a page, you could feel its heat, and for a moment read a fragment of text in a strange kind of black and grey negative, until, as the heat dissipated, the page melted to dust in your hand."

This attempt to re-engineer the country's history still continues in Republika Srpska, that part of Bosnia under Serbian control, said Dr Enes Kujundzic, director of the National Library. In towns such as Banja Luka and Visegrad, the centuries old mosques and medresas (Islamic schools) have been dynamited.

The sites of the former Ottoman buildings have been levelled, and grass and trees planted over them, in a maniacal attempt physically to rewrite the Ottoman past into a Serb present.

"Bosanski Brod has been renamed Srpski Brod, Foca is now called Srbinje. All the Bosnian place names have been turned into Serbian ones. Now the Serbs have some doubts about what they did here, as every normal human being would. This is their means of justifying it," said Dr Kujundzic.

Cultural genocide 1992

From the FAIFE listserv, mid-May:

On this day 15 years ago: Burning books

Fifteen years ago this day, on 17 May 1992 gunners of the Serb-led Yugoslav army bombarding the Bosnian capital shelled and burned down the Oriental Institute in Sarajevo (Orijentalni institut u Sarajevu), destroying six centuries of records of Bosnia's history and intellectual life. The resulting blaze consumed the Institute's entire collection, including 5,263 manuscript codices dating back to medieval times and more than 300,000 archival documents, as well as the Oriental Institute's research library and catalogues.

Three months later, on 26-27 August 1992, Gen. Mladic's gunners loosed a concentrated barrage of incendiary shells on the National and University Library of Bosnia-Herzegovina, turning some 1.5 million books to ashes and charcoal -- the single largest act of deliberate book-burning in modern history.

The ashes have cooled long ago, but the damage to culture remains. Adam Lebor reported in 2000 on the efforts of Bosnian scholars to defy those who sought to rob them of their culture and history.

[PHOTO]: Ferman (rescript of the Ottoman sultan), dated 23 December 1832, authorizing the reconstruction of the Old Orthodox church in Mostar. The original decree, part of the judicial records of the Ottoman kadi's court in Mostar, was among the 300,000+ archival documents destroyed on 17 May 1992, when the Sarajevo Oriental Institute was bombarded and burned by
Serb forces.

[PHOTOS]: Views of the burned-out Oriental Institute, which occupied the upper two floors of this Austro-Hungarian-era building in the center of Sarajevo. The photo of the interior, taken in late May 1992, shows the top floor open to the sky with the remains of thousands of burned books, manuscripts and historical documents carpeting the floor.

Know your stuff to increase patron access to information

Free access blocked by unawareness and librarians - many African scientists not aware of free access to online scientific journals

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Is Starbucks anti-God or just telling it like it is?

Starbucks has been critized for printing "anti-God" and "anti-Christian" messages on their cups as part of their "The way I see it" series. Despite boycott threats, Starbucks has no plans to remove the messages. For the full story and to read the actual messages, see here.

Canadian Journalists for Free Expression appalled at attack on journalist in Mississauga, Canada

From the FAIFE-L listserv.

It's chilling to realize that freedom of speech can result in violent attacks, even in a country like Canada where that right is protected in our Charter.

(Toronto, April 19, 2007) CJFE is appalled and shocked by the news that journalist Jawaad Faizi was attacked in Mississauga, Ontario on the evening of April 17. Faizi works for the Mississauga-based newspaper, The Pakistan Post.

Jawaad Faizi describes being attacked by two men in his car outside the home of his Editor, Amir Arain. Two men, one armed with a cricket bat, smashed the car windows and hit Faizi inside the car. When they saw Faizi call 911 on his cell phone, they fled the scene. Paramedics and police, and his editor arrived soon afterwards.

According to Jawaad Faizi, the two men threatened him and said that he should cease writing against Islam, and against the Pakistan-based religious organisation, Idara Minhaj-ul-Quran, and its leader, Cleric Allama Tahir-Ul-Qadri. Allama Tahir-Ul-Qadri is a frequent visitor to Canada.

Both Arain and Faizi have received telephoned threats previous to this attack, and, in fact, on Monday, April 16, they filed a complaint with the police, and had also informed police about other threats they received in January. Police say that they cannot comment on the status of the investigation, but because of the nature of the attack this will probably be sent to the Criminal Investigation Unit and the Diversity Relations Unit.

"That this attack happened here in Canada is of great concern to us," said CJFE Executive Director Anne Game. "We call on the police to treat this matter extremely seriously and ensure that a full investigation into the attack is initiated immediately."

The attack, which sent Jawaad Faizi to hospital for treatment of injuries to his left arm, has caused him to miss two days of work. And on Wednesday, he received a call from the Vice-Principal of the school his three children attend, asking him to keep them at home, as they may pose a security risk.

Faizi states that he would be able to identify his attackers, which may put him at even greater risk of further attacks. In a phone interview with CJFE, Jawaad said "I had so many problems back home [in Lahore, Pakistan] as a journalist, but I'm shocked that this is happening here."

CJFE is very concerned about the nature of this attack and the potential chill on journalists writing about faith-based issues. This is a cautionary tale for us, and points to the need for vigilance in the protection of press freedom not just in other countries, but in Canada as well.

Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) is an association of more than 300 journalists, editors, publishers, producers, students and others who work to promote and defend free expression and press freedom in Canada and around the world.

e-mail: cjfe@cjfe.org, Internet: http://www.cjfe.org

FLIF updates

Apologies for the unintentional and long hiatus.

I have a few updates to pass on. With the end of the year came graduation, which means that we have lost our fabulous co-chairs, Tanya and Dai. Fortunatly, they are being succeeded by the equally fabulous Camilla and Melanie.

I'm still trying to keep the blog updated semi regularly (cough, save for the latest hiatus), but I expect that it will be a bit lax over the summer (sigh, I just don't get to play on my computer as much as I like to what with a real job and all). As always, if you have any links or news items that you think we should post, please feel free to fire them off to flifblog at gmail dot com

Hope spring is being good to all of you so far!