Iraq New

When Islamic State overran the Iraqi city of Mosul, human life was not the only thing in peril. Knowledge was, too.

Fortunately, Ameen al-Jaleeli understood this. He used a friend’s wifi to transfer a vast batch of Wikipedia files for offline usage. When the militants cut the cables in July 2016, he was ready.

“Reading gives me the feeling that I’m still a human being, especially when living under Isis, because knowledge has no limits,” he said. “Even under the airstrikes, I used to put my earphones on, listen to music and read.”

Jaleeli downloaded files in English because Arabic is severely underrepresented on the internet. Now that the city has been liberated from Isis, he and a team of student translators at the University of Mosul are setting about redressing that imbalance.

Together, they are making Wikipedia pages, academic articles and seminal works covering science, literature and philosophy available to Arabic speakers in attempt to confront lies with logic and pit critical thinking against propaganda and fake news.

So far the organisation has added more than 2.1 million words to Arabic Wikipedia, including entries on female scientists, civil rights, religious diversity, evolution and conspiracy theories.

The response has been remarkable. Since launching in 2017, IBB has attracted more than 1 million followers to its Facebook page, and draws more than 40,000 views across its online channels a day. It has also translated books, including Enlightenment Now by Steven Pinker and Waking Up by Sam Harris.

Requests are flooding in and IBB is doubling the team of 60 translators to work with six more universities across Iraq as well as branching into Kurdish and Farsi. Every week, the team posts about a different female scientist on social media.

“It’s very important to raise the understanding of people here that women can do anything,” said Shahd Shahin, 25, who recently graduated after suspending her studies for several years when Isis shut down schools and universities in Mosul.


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