In 2015 the Federal Foreign Office is once again providing funds from its Cultural Preservation Programme to the tune of 350,000 euros to preserve centuries‑old manuscripts from the libraries in Timbuktu (Mali).
In late 2012 the historic manuscripts were in danger of being destroyed by Islamist rebels. However, in a rescue operation lasting several months, it was possible to move them to safety to Mali’s capital Bamako, largely thanks to the Malian librarian and manuscript expert Abdel Kader Haidara with the support of the Federal Foreign Office.
Since then the manuscripts have been conserved, restored, archived and digitised in an international cooperation project. Key partners in Germany are the Gerda Henkel Foundation and the University of Hamburg’s Centre for the Study of Manuscript Cultures, which have been working with local experts to implement conservation and digitisation measures.
Speaking in Berlin on 29 June, Federal Foreign Minister Steinmeier commented:
Palmyra is not the only place where cultural treasures are under threat. Islamist terrorist groups want to destroy cultural identities and are threatening our cultural heritage in Syria, Iraq and on the African continent.
We cannot allow this to happen. That is why we remain committed to working to preserve the ancient manuscripts from Timbuktu, where courageous Malians risked their lives to save them from the Islamist rebels.
I would like to thank the Gerda Henkel Foundation and the University of Hamburg’s Centre for the Study of Manuscript Cultures for their excellent cooperation within the framework of the Cultural Preservation Programme of the Federal Foreign Office.
Germany stands shoulder to shoulder with all those who are not prepared to allow Islamist terrorists to rob them of their right to live in dignity.
The approximately 300,000 rescued manuscripts from the city of Timbuktu, a UNESCO world heritage site, combine the collected scientific, philosophical and theological knowledge of the Arab world of the 12th and 13th centuries. Since the successful rescue operation in late 2012, experts from Mali and Hamburg have been working to make the manuscripts permanently accessible to researchers.
The Federal Foreign Office provided financial assistance totalling 500,000 euros in 2014 to help save the documents and runs an international coordinating group in Bamako to implement the preservation measures for the manuscripts from Timbuktu.
Numerous international partners are now supporting the initiative with financial contributions or through their own projects.
Protection of cultural heritage is also the focus of the 39th session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, opened by current Chair of the Committee Maria Böhmer, Minister of State at the Federal Foreign Office, in Bonn on 28 June.