Old Kurdish Handwritings Found in Saddam Hussein’s House


Looters carrying away furniture from Saddam Hussein's palace. Photo AFP

February 7, 2012

SULAIMANIYAH, Kurdistan region 'Iraq', — For nearly seven years, Zheen Center in Sulaimaniyah has been trying to collect historical Kurdish scripts and handwritings that went missing during years of war and conflict.

The center is trying to collect and safeguard Kurdish scripts that are scattered around the world. Rafiq Sabir, head of Zheen Center, describes his organization as “a hospital for Kurdish literature.”

Zheen Center has so far succeeded in retrieving some old Kurdish handwritings from the Ottoman Empire era and in the Iranian capital, Tehran.

“We have also been able to find a lot of documents in countries like Britain, Russia and Turkey, but we haven’t been able to bring then back to Kurdistan yet,” Sabir said.

After the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003, Zheen Center started an ambitious plan to locate and bring back Kurdish handwritings and ancient documents from other parts of Iraq.

“Since the collapse of the former regime, many Kurdish documents have been found and we are trying hard -- even if we have to pay money -- to get those documents back,” Sabir said. “We have bought some stolen documents.”

According to Sabir, most of the historical documents that have been collected are from the 1930s and they are original copies.

Sabir said his organization has found 30 historic Kurdish books in Iraq.

According to Sabir, Iraq’s former dictator was in possession of thousands of old Kurdish documents.

“More than 40,000 Kurdish handwritings and documents were in his (Hussein’s) house,” Sabir said. “But after the Iraq war, most of those documents were stolen and we need a lot of money to buy them again and we don’t have that money.”

Sabir said that in 2009, when he went to Mecca for the annual Hajj pilgrimage,
he searched through the historic section of the King Abdul-Aziz library and was able to find more than 100 documents written by Kurdish scholars in Arabic. He said he was able to bring them back to Kurdistan.

Among the historical documents at Zheen Center are newspapers and magazines from the 1930s.

Sabir said his organization is hoping to get a hold of the catalogues of libraries in countries such as Iran, Jordan and Saudi Arabia in order to be able to see what Kurdish documents they have.

“Through this we were able to find a copy of one of the poetry books of Nali (famous Kurdish poet),” he said.

Zheen Center has paid 3 million Iraqi dinars ($2,570) for a single document, and funding is tight.

“We have about 20 millions Iraqi dinars (US$16,000) monthly and that’s only for staff salaries and other daily matters,” he said. “That’s why we are forced to ask for some financial assistance from Kurdish businessmen.”

By Hiwa Raza