Yemen’s Threatened Cultural Heritage

Christian C. Sahner, Associate Professor of Islamic History at the University of Oxford, writes in the Wall Street Journal of the civil war in Yemen and the Islamic manuscripts that are in peril:

“Scholars do not have a precise grasp of what has been lost since 2015, though the destruction has certainly been extensive. It has been driven as much by sectarian hatred as by the vicissitudes of war, as it seems that some of the destruction has occurred at the hands of Salafi militants who regard the Zaydis and their books as heretical.

Amid this, there is a small glimmer of hope for Yemen in the form of a new project called the Zaydi Manuscript Tradition: A Digital Portal. Led by Prof. Sabine Schmidtke of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J., the portal aims to preserve, study, and make available online the rich patrimony of Zaydi texts. Thus, while war ravages the country, a digital salvage operation of Yemen’s patrimony is well under way. It has the power to play an important role in rebuilding the country’s cultural heritage after the war ends—and, thus, contribute to rebuilding its identity.”

Read the article at the Wall Street Journal and learn more about the Zaydi Manuscript Tradition project at IAS.