I learned a long time ago not to trust BBC News. Orgreave and 9/11 are just two examples out of a massive list I could reel off, given the time. And so this week we have the alleged burning of ancient manuscripts at the library in Timbuktu. This blog from Lissnup questions the BBC’s report but also the assertion that Islamist terrorists are on a mission of wanton destruction. The other day someone on my Twitter timeline – a Tory or some right-winger – linked Timbuktu with the Taliban’s destruction of the massive Buddhist statues carved into a mountain in Afghanistan. The frothing anger was palpable, even through the Internet. The question for me was always, “Why would Muslims, referred to as ‘Islamists’, want to destroy something written by other Muslims”? It just didn’t make sense. The only reason our media would say such a thing is to provoke outrage and therefore convince the public to accept the need for an endless war in the Sahel, the Maghreb and perhaps, the rest of the West African region.

This is a particularly illuminating paragraph.

It is possible that the empty boxes are of manuscripts destroyed during the process of restoration. Restoration is a continuous process at the Ahmed Baba Centre – and other private libraries such as the SAVAMA consortium – as mss come in from all over the region (Azawad); this I saw when doing research at Ahmed Baba. However, a colleague doing her research in Timbuktu as well told me that these are a few mss.

It is also possible that the empty boxes are of mss stolen; mss are stolen all the time in Timbuktu and sold (usually to some Westerner for a variety of motives).

There are some Westerners who clearly fancy themselves as wannabe Indiana Joneses. Some people will pay the earth for such treasures and there are plenty of Western billionaires who would want these manuscripts as part of their private collection.


The following is a statement by researcher Mohammad Mathee regarding the alleged destruction of manuscripts (mss) in Timbuktu, Mali.

“I work as a researcher on the Timbuktu manuscripts once part of the UCT-Tombouctou Manuscripts Project though based at the University of Johannesburg now. I do not think it is as straightforward as BBC and other media are reporting it of Islamic extremists burning the Ahmad Baba Centre. From the news coming in from Mali, the report in the Guardian, BBC etc. is exaggerated. The new building has not been torched (in fact, it seems the Ansar al-Din guys and ilk took care quite nicely of the building).

According to a senior researcher at the Ahmed Baba Centre, 10 000 ms were placed in the vault of the new building (the archival library built by the South African government and civil society). However, according to Dr. Mahmoud Zoubeir, first director of…

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