Map of MaliIn recent days, fighting in and around Timbuktu has led to serious concerns about the safety of the tens of thousands of ancient manuscripts there. What is in danger is the written legacy attesting to an unprecedented intellectual and cultural expansion over the past centuries.

This intellectual capital is a reflection of the continued contribution of Africans to world civilization. It is also a reflection of the pioneering place of Africa in the very foundations of writing and the spiritual and cultural development of mankind. If this heritage were to disappear, the development of African historiography would be seriously compromised and an important part of the world memory would be annihilated.

Given this situation, we address a solemn appeal to the belligerents to respect and protect the cultural heritage property held in Timbuktu, including elements of the World Heritage List of UNESCO and ancient manuscript collections in libraries, in accordance with the International Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the event of conflict.

On April 4 in Dakar, 51 distinguished African scholars and library directors (from 14 countries) have signed the "Call to preserve the ancient manuscripts of Timbuktu and Mali".

Today, the "West African Research Association" (WARA), part of the Center of African Studies of the University of Boston, has published the appeal in English, French and Arabic and the names of the initial supporters.

You are also invited to sign this online petition to save the ancient manuscripts of Timbuktu.


Thomas Schuler
ICOM Disaster Relief Task Force (DRTF)

Ingrid Parent
IFLA President

The Blue Shield

The Blue Shield is the protective emblem of the 1954 Hague Convention which is the basic international treaty formulating rules to protect cultural heritage during armed conflicts. The Blue Shield network consists of organisations dealing with museums, archives, audiovisual supports, libraries, monuments and sites.

The International Committee of the Blue Shield (ICBS), founded in 1996, comprises representatives of the five Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) working in this field:

National Blue Shield Committees have been founded in a number of countries (18 established and 18 under construction). The Association of National Committees of the Blue Shield (ANCBS), founded in December 2008, will coordinate and strengthen international efforts to protect cultural property at risk of destruction in armed conflicts or natural disasters. The ANCBS has its headquarters in The Hague.

Contact Information:‐