In a besieged Damascus suburb, a secret library lies beneath a bombed-out building where volunteers have collected more than 14,000 books on every subject under the sun. “We saw that it was vital to create a new library so that we could continue our education,” says founder Anas Ahmad. “We put it in the basement to help stop it being destroyed by shells and bombs like so many other buildings here.”
Volunteers have risked their lives to collect books for the library. Ahmad says this heroic effort is vital in time of war as hospital volunteers have used these books to help them treat patients, untrained teachers have borrowed books for classes and aspiring dentists have even researched how to extract teeth.
“In many cases we get books from bomb or shell-damaged homes. The majority of these places are near the front line, so collecting them is very dangerous,” Ahmad reports. “We have to go through bombed-out buildings to hide ourselves from snipers. We have to be extremely careful because snipers sometimes follow us in their sights, anticipating the next step we’ll take.”
Amjad is a teenager who visits the secret library every day. “I believe the brain is like a muscle. And reading has definitely made mine stronger. My enlightened brain has now fed my soul too.”