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