ANN: A project to fight against trafficking of books and manuscripts in MENA region

Stephane Ipert's picture

        Project Himayah (In Arabic this means "protection", "care", "safekeeping")

A practical project suggested by library professionals to support the efforts to counter the trafficking and illegal circulation of historical books, manuscripts and archives in the Middle East and North Africa (and neighboring countries)

Project managed by Qatar National Library. Contact : Stephane Ipert

For several years, the trafficking and smuggling of heritage items from libraries and archives has been rising. In the MENA region, this phenomenon is greater due to the number of countries in conflict (Iraq, Libya, Syria, Sudan and Yemen), and because some countries suffer from high poverty levels (Saharan and African areas, etc.).
Moreover, it is unquestionable that trafficking is linked to terrorist groups.

The various international organizations in charge of countering the trafficking of artifacts and laws enforcement have , de facto,
strongly focused on the illegal circulation of archeological items. Little has been done until now with respect to documentary heritage, which is even more at risk because it is less protected by laws and is easier to move illegally. Moreover, the networks, export methods, circulation processes, “temporary storage” and destinations are slightly different for archives and manuscripts.

Qatar National Library and the IFLA Preservation and Conservation (PAC) Center for Arab Countries and the Middle East will cooperate and partner with various organizations to counter the trafficking of manuscripts, books and archives in the MENA region.

- IFLA , ICOM, ICA (EGATTT), ILAB (International League of Antiquarian Booksellers)
-National police departments countering the traffic of cultural items & National customs departments


  • Professional meetings and cross-cooperation exchanges
  • Policy developments, capacity building and useful e-tools development

-          Study of existing laws and rules in the MENA region
-          Website with all available tools for librarians
-          Specific database of stolen documentary heritage items from the MENA region

  • Training (in-person and e-learning; English and Arabic), workshops and professional awareness   

-          Guidelines and e-tools to help customs and police employees identify manuscripts in Arabic scripts

  • Sharing services in MENA region

-          Identification of the laboratories with forensic capacities and making sure of their collaboration
-          Identification of all the goodwill experts susceptible to help customs, police and justice departments

  •  Targeted steps and actions to increase understanding of trafficking networks and how to deter them

-          Improve understanding of trafficking networks
-          Monitor sales catalogs and create alerts

  •  Outreach and communication campaign



All people and institutions willing to participate in this project (which will start asap) are welcome to contact me to get more information and discuss about this project.


Stéphane IPERT

Acting director of Distinctive Collections - Qatar National Library

Preservation Manager

Director of the IFLA PAC center for Arab region and Middle East

+ 974 66974161