The Ba’ath Regime burned his books, he sen­tenced Sad­dam Hus­sein to death in turn

The Kurdish Globe - - NEWS -

tire li­braries were hid­den away on shelves set within the walls, like a close-sided win­dow, or in boxes. “My fa­ther had fa­mous books in Farsi, Turk­ish, Ara­bic and Kur­dish”, says Judge Rauof, adding that Hawraman is the rich­est area in terms of lit­er­a­ture and po­ems.

He talked hap­pily about his grand­mother’s black-cov­ered Qu­ran, and how they pro­tected this rare copy be­fore it was taken away by the Ba’athists.

De­scrib­ing this rare and valu­able copy of the Qu­ran and its his­tor­i­cal im­por­tance, he says that it came from In­dia, and was writ­ten by hand on leather with a black cover. It had orig­i­nally be­longed to his fa­ther’s grand­mother, who was called Amina Khan Ha­mad Beg Walad Beg. Its mar­gins were home to dozens of po­ems in Kur­dish, Farsi and Ara­bic, along with the fam­ily bi­og­ra­phy. “We loved it a lot, be­cause it was a valu­able and won­der­ful thing”. When they moved to Bagh­dad in the Eight­ies, his fa­ther would cite from that Qu­ran. "When he hap­pened to visit my brother Mu'tasim one night, Abol was in charge back then, but he and all his fam­ily were mar­tyred in the chem­i­cal at­tack in March 1988. The li­brary was moved to Sh­n­roy moun­tain that same day, where the peo­ple burned the books and Kur­dish news­pa­pers and mag­a­zines for warmth.

Then we re­turned to our main topic of our con­ver­sa­tion, Judge Rauof’s per­sonal li­brary. How did you, a judge dur­ing the rev­o­lu­tion, then in the courts and even­tu­ally at the trial of Sad­dam Hus­sein, start col­lect­ing books? He said: "My grand­fa­ther and my fa­ther were book lovers. They col­lected books in Farsi, Ara­bic, Kur­dish and Turk­ish. And they passed this on to me. I re­mem­ber that we had sto­ries about Alexan­der, Zorab and Ar­salan, which were some of the first I read. In ad­di­tion, my fam­ily is from Hawraman, which is the true home of Kur­dish lit­er­a­ture; there were books there even in the vil­lages. Add to that the fact that the Naqsh­bandi fam­ily played an im­por­tant role in lo­cal re­li­gious and lit­er­acy move­ments. I've been fond of books since my childhood, es­pe­cially when we were in Bagh­dad from 1958 un­til the early Eight­ies. That’s when I started es­tab­lish­ing my li­brary, but it’s been lost twice. The first time, it was burned; the sec­ond time was when we joined the Kur­dish rev­o­lu­tion. When we re­turned to Bagh­dad, a Ba’ath of­fi­cer had been moved into our house. My li­brary was there, and that’s how I came to lose it". Judge Rauof goes on: "We didn't know what had hap­pened. When we re­turned with my fam­ily to Bagh­dad, I wanted to go to my house. We had a good neigh­bor called Um Zuheir who saw scripts was dif­fi­cult. I re­mem­ber when Hal­abja was attacked dur­ing the era of Za'eem Sdeeq, and we obliged to wrap a mas­sive num­ber of books, doc­u­ments and im­por­tant arte­facts in ny­lon and bury them in tins un­der the ground. But when the time came to dig them up again, they had all de­cayed. Hun­dreds of doc­u­ments were lost for­ever in this way, for fear of the Bagh­dad au­thor­ity, or were burned.

When we came to Er­bil, I brought nearly twenty boxes of books with me. When I visit other coun­tries, I buy new books about poetry and lit­er­a­ture. On my lat­est visit to Iran, I bought a num­ber of book, some of which were banned in Iran.

The judge tells us that he reads pa­pers and mag­a­zines ev­ery­day in Kur­dish and Ara­bic. He is in­ter­ested in read­ing poetry and sto­ries. In fact, he writes po­ems and sto­ries, too, though he does not pub­lish them (though he did once pub­lish some prose pieces un­der a pseu­do­nym: Kh­wen­dawa, which means 'reader' – the name was cho­sen by Hadi Rasheed Chaw­shly). There are a num­ber of pub­li­ca­tions by well-known au­thors in Kur­dish, Farsi and Ara­bic in his li­brary. He has copies of ev­ery Iraqi le­gal sources since the state’s foun­da­tion.

Then there are the dozens of pho­tos and hand­writ­ten let­ters and ar­ti­cles. And the col­lec­tion of old po­ems he in­her­ited from his fa­ther and kept safe.

Asked what books mean to him, Judge Rauof Rasheed replies: “Books are thoughts. Read­ing books means re­new­ing our con­tact with peo­ple, or re­new­ing our thoughts. If a man’s thoughts die, he dies too. To me, death is the death of thought, not the body. That's why peo­ple who read news­pa­pers daily keep on learn­ing new things. Books mean the preser­va­tion of civ­i­liza­tions. When I read an Amer­i­can or a Latin Amer­i­can story, I get ac­quainted with their so­ci­ety. And when I visit coun­tries I've read sto­ries about, they don’t feel for­eign; that’s the fa­mil­iar­ity that comes from read­ing books.”

This brave judge, this hon­est man who is fond of books and read­ing, could talk for­ever about books and their im­por­tance and value. He has more to tell us about the story of his li­brary. The im­por­tant thing is that he keeps on en­rich­ing his li­brary, keeps on read­ing and writ­ing for him­self, not pub­lish­ing for oth­ers. His speech is sweet: when you hear him talk about books, you know how hard Kur­dis­tan’s in­tel­lec­tu­als have worked to im­prove them­selves and to brighten their homes with books and prints, in spite of all the catas­tro­phes the Kurds have wit­nessed. This is a good ev­i­dence for live­li­ness of thought… and the live­li­ness of a na­tion. That’s how life is: the judge who could not es­tab­lish a li­brary be­cause of Ba’athist tyranny ends up ques­tion­ing the ex-pres­i­dent of Iraq and con­demn­ing him to death.

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