In one of the side streets in Darayya, a town maimed by unrelenting bombardment and siege, lies a treasure that has been slowly curated since 2012: a small public library of books salvaged from underneath the ashes.
In 2012 Darayya withstood a sustained and brutal campaign by the regime forces. Many houses were reduced to rubble by the indiscriminate shelling in the failed attempt to regain the town. A small group of activists, under the name of “the Change Project”, decided to to dedicate a part of their time to salvaging any books they could. Behind this effort is a “passion for for scientific and intellectual pursuits” and the belief that “reading and research are necessary for society, and to help young people develop,” explains the group.
As the number of books grew, the group, now called “Dawn of the Nation Movement”, decided to rehabilitate a storage place for them. Shelves and furniture were made, an indexing and categorization system drawn up, and before long the city had a new community public library.
The library, run by the local activist team, now holds more than 11,000 titles. The books range from Arabic and foreign novels to religious and scholarly texts. Much of the collection comes from the efforts to salvage books from under the rubble, and many of them were collected by the activists under intense shelling. The books are then sorted and are indexed by name, topic and the place they were found (so that their owners could reclaim them when they come back). The volunteer team behind the library also established a loaning system to reach as large an audience as possible. The library is also open during certain hours for those who want to read and study inside.
The young men and women behind the project have had to work even harder to maintain it alongside the other areas where their efforts were needed. Nevertheless, it is their passion for culture, and for their town that drives them forward. “These books were owned by the people of Darya who were forced to leave their homes and flee to different areas,” explained the group, “and this library is dedicated to them.”