In a war-ravaged suburb of Damascus, rebel fighters nurture a library of 15,000 books to keep the hopes of revolution alive.
ISTANBUL — Outside, winter’s chill grips the grey, war-ravaged city, a nightmarish landscape of bombed-out buildings, piles of rubble, and smoldering trash frequently strafed by screeching warplanes or regime helicopters loaded with crude bombs made of dynamite and metal shards.
But inside the basement of a residential building in the Damascus suburb of Daraya, the world beyond Syria’s borders opens up. It is a place of learning and ideas, with books salvaged from the wreckage outside and cobbled together into a makeshift library of 15,000 volumes. A photocopy of an old history book, a shelf full of children’s stories, and self-help books by Tony Robbins, sit alongside a J.M. Coetzee novel, a volume of Islamic scholarship, and slim editions of Arabic poetry by Mahmoud Darweesh or Nizar Qabbani. They are read by candlelight during lengthy power outages or at the war front by rebel fighters.