UPDATE, August 26th: Abu Mohammed writes! Read it here
This is Abu Mohammed’s story:
Abu Mohammed had 500 books in his personal library – until they were burned by the Syrian army.
Abu Mohammed is an English Literature graduate in Syria. His house was burned down by the Syrian Army because he is a member of the resistance. When his house went up in flames so did his library of more than 500 books.
In his report, Ian Pannell describes Abu as a reluctant fighter, someone who would rather see a pen than a gun in people’s hands. He is devastated by the loss of his library. “If they burn my house it’s OK, but not my books. I cried when I saw my books”. I made a transcript of the piece if you want to read it.
His story moved me. I wanted to help Abu Mohammed rebuild his personal library. So I did some thinking and some research and in the end bought a Kobo e reader, set up an account, and put some books in there.
Now I need some help.
I am trying to get hold of a list of the books that he lost, but in the meantime, please pick your favourite book from English literature and buy it for him.
Here’s how you do it – go to the Kobo website, do a search, find the book you’re looking for, click on the “Send this book as a Gift” link, fill in the form and pay. Abu Mohammed’s account email is booksforabu[at]gmail.com. You can leave him a message there or post a comment here for him to read here on this site.
Alert – there are a lot of free books available – turns out that most of the classics are free and I’ve been adding a whole lot to his account. So check before you buy a book that it’s not available for free. If it is, let me know and I will add it to the library.
I’ll try to keep a list of what’s been bought here. But don’t worry, because even if a book is bought twice, it can always be exchanged for another one. Unfortunately, Kobo does not have any kind of slick Amazon-stlye wishlist function. (But Amazon UK doesn’t allow you to give e-books as gifts anyway, which is bizarre.)
The e-reader will get to him as soon as possible and I will let you know when it does.
Book burning has a long and inglorious place in the toolkit of state repression and intimidation. But for me, this isn’t about the Syrian conflict or geopolitics, but just about reaching out to one man who lost something that was very precious to him.
In this digital age a man must still fear for his life and his house at the hands of others, but at the very least we can put his books out of their reach. It’s a start.