The Nahrein Network


Documenting and analysing local archives at the Zheen Centre

Team: Shenah Abdullah, Shoxan Abdul-Qadir Abdullah (Kurdistan Institution for Strategic Studies and Scientific Research), Safen O. Muhammad (ART+)

Duration: funded for 12 months from 01 January 2020 

The Zheen Archival Center is one of the largest archival repositories in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. As a historical repository of the political, social, cultural and the guardian of the country’s national memory, it is holds thousands of books, periodicals, documents and manuscripts, among other sources, that require permanent labour and research devotion. 

Along with the aforementioned sources, the Zheen archive houses continually donated personal library collections of local men and women. Most of these personal archives are unexamined for understanding their historic, as well as socio-political significance. These collections are also inaccessible to local and transnational scholars, students and researchers.

The focus of this research project was to identify, categorize, digitalize and examine the plethora of scattered sources about the British colonial period and make those sources accessible to local and international students, researchers and academics. This project examined published titles, manuscripts, memoirs, autobiographies, as well as socio-political and colonial documents from and about the British colonial period (direct and indirect rule from 1917-1958), in Iraq.

In light of this, the primary aim of this research project was to identify and examine the socio-political and historical significance of the colonial sources, and categorizing them within an online database for usage by local and international users.

An additional, aspect of this research project included conducting ethnographic interviews with elderly frequenting the centre and the donors of some of the personal archives stored at Zheen. The aim of the oral knowledge strand—the living archive, was to expand and enrich the focus of the archival research. The unstructured interviews were meant to supplement the understanding of the British colonial era and fill in the gaps left by the archival documents.


  • Identifying and categorizing all the resources from and about the British colonial period.
  • Digitalization of the aforementioned resources about the British colonial period and including them within a new online library catalogue.
  • Identifying, digitalizing and labelling a collection of rare colonial and ancient English and other language books, documents and periodicals and adding them to the online catalogue.
  • Labelling and inclusion of all Zheen’s Master dissertation and PhD thesis into the online library catalogue. 
  • Completion of data entry of English, French, German and other language books in Zheen’s three major libraries and their inclusion into the online catalogue.


  1. Identifying, categorizing, digitalizing and labelling all of Taufiq Wahby’s personal library (including hundreds of letters, photographs and personal goods) and adding them into a new database.
  2. The public opening of Taufiq Wahby and collective library and showcasing its contests with locals in Slemani.
  3. Adding 1,700 new titles into Zheen’s online catalogue, which is now accessible to local and international users.
  4. Establishing a combined library for late Kurdish historian and scholars, Rafiq Hilmi, Taufiq Wahbi and the rare books. The fully categorized collective library is the first of its kind at Zheen. Part of this collective library has been digitalized, restored and carefully examined chronologically, for usage by local and international users.
  5. Assisting Zheen scholars digitalize and restore 80 pdf Kurdish and Arabic books, and also design and fine-tune new manuscripts for publication.
  6. Assisting the director and staff of Zheen write grant applications and receive support from international organizations, such as BNF and University of Exeter.
  7. Conducting qualitative ethnographic interviews with Rafiq Hilmi’s daughter, Zheen Hilmi and publishing her Arabic poetry collection in 2021.
  8. Conducting a symposium on colonialism and the social sciences for local academics and sharing the result of our project.
  9. Publicising reports and news of our activities through all our media platforms.

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