During the last six years, despite having to deal with the deterioration of security on one hand, and the Corona pandemic on the other, the curators of a library at Ali Saray village have managed to keep it open.
The library, which was established 17 years ago as a personal initiative to serve the residents of the village of Ali Saray and its neighbouring villages (west of the Daquq district), has been able to attract a number of students and others seeking knowledge.
"The Ali Saray public library was established in 2003 as a personal initiative to serve the residents of Ali Saray village and the neighbouring villages in the west of Daquq district. By the summer of 2014, it had a collection of more than three thousand books," said the library's founder, Rajab Asi Kaka’i.
Rajab added that the library has organized more than thirty different events since its existence, including intellectual meetings and poetry sessions at summer nights, workshops, forming a sports team, and providing sources for university students.
Higher lending rate in Corona times
The curators have had the intention to hold various activities this year, such as poetry evenings, intellectual seminars, a sports league for the youths, and to celebrate the Kaka’i poets from the region, like Khalil Munawar and Mulla Abbas Hilmi.
The COVID-19 outbreak, however, has forced people into isolation, and the library’s planned activities have been cancelled.
“The Corona pandemic has affected the library’s activities greatly; the library was closed for several months after a curfew was imposed,” said one of the library’s curators, Ali Hussein (20).
"Despite the strict measures to limit the spread of the Coronavirus, intellectuals kept visiting the library to borrow books. The lending rate went up during the lockdown,” said Ali.
Despite the strict measures to limit the spread of the Coronavirus, intellectuals kept visiting the library to borrow books
About their activities this year, Hussein explains: "We have planned several activities for this year, but none of them went through due to the curfew and the Coronavirus outbreak. We had hoped that we could provide reading and music courses."
University student Hana Raza Kaka’i (27) says that she is fortunate enough to have this library located in her village, as it has been very useful for her. “It was very challenging for students during the lockdown, because it made obtaining sources very difficult.”
Defying lack of security
The Coronavirus was not the only problem for the library, as the deteriorating security situation and frequent attacks by gunmen also posed a threat.
When ISIS invaded the southern and western parts of Kirkuk province in August 2014, including the Arab villages near the village of Ali Saray (southwest of Daquq district), the library was closed.
At the request of a number of students and intellectuals, In March 2015 the library was moved to the Kaka’i village Rizgari for safety.
The relocation of the library to the village of Rizgari was a good step. Intellectuals, university students, and many others are happy that the library survived
“The relocation of the library to the village of Rizgari was a good step. Intellectuals, university students, and many others are happy that the library survived; they have access to the sources they need for their studies and research. The library also contributes in raising the intellectual level of the youths in the area,” said Bébak Hussein (28), one of the curators.
“Most of the sources I needed to complete my dissertation, I obtained from this library,” said Hana Raza, adding that she graduated with distinction thanks to those sources.
Hiwa Khalil (23), a resident of Ali Saray, says that the library and the activities the curators have arranged have attracted a lot of Kaka’i intellectuals and youths from a wide area, including Daquq district and Kirkuk City.
Despite the challenges caused by the pandemic and lack of security, the curators have been able to keep the library open for intellectuals, students and seekers of knowledge in the southern region of Kirkuk province, which lacks such libraries.