Donating Books to Syria: Advice from Mr. Abed

Abed Books Arrive at Kalamoon












(Photo:Abed books arriving at Kalamoon University)

I wrote to Haytham Abed to ask his advice on donating books to Syria.

Readers will remember that he is the subject of the previous post; he has donated hundreds of books to Kalamoon University and is now organizing donations to other Syrian universities as well. Here is the kind response from "Ayyoub" Haytham Abed, ya sabour.

Dear Prof. Landis:

The process of getting the books to Syria is not easy. First, one must get the books and prepare a list of all the books. Send this to the university. Get their approval, then the university must get the approval of the Ministry of Higher Education in Syria (this task took about 3 months). Once the approval is received, then the person donating the books must contact, by phone, the U.S. Department of Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control (Syria Sanctions). This is the easy part, the person at the Dept. of Treasury is friendly and helpful. He will walk the donor through the Dept. web site, type in the name of university and start the search. In less than a minute you will get an answer, which was that the University of Kalamoon was not on the list of sanctioned institutions. I got the green light from the U.S. government and was ready to ship.

The list of books must be certified by the Syrian Embassy in Washington D.C., That process was very civilized also; Ambassador Mustapha was helpful and supportive. A letter must be given by the donor called "Deed of Donation", an IRS Tax exemption letter must be obtained ( I got that from Syrian American Association in the Bay area).

A commercial invoice must be prepared detailing the number of books, weight, value, etc..Then the search for a shipping company was impossible. Finally I found a ship to Marseilles, France, then to Lattakia. All the books must be boxed, each box must be labeled "University Books, Gift, No commercial value". Boxes must be placed on shipping pallets and shrink wrapped.

The books sat in a Marseilles warehouse waiting for some document (The French were impossible). After many telephone calls to France, the books were shipped to Lattakia. They sat at the port in Syria for 2 months, blocked by the Ministry of Culture in Lattakia, because we did not bother to get their permission.

However, the Syrian Wasta method worked sufficiently well and the books arrive at Kalamoon university 2 weeks ago. In all, the process took me one year!! Having said that, I must admit that I made several mistakes due to ignorance. I believe, I now have learned all the short cuts. So if anyone else would like to contribute, I suggest they e-mail me or call my cell:


I am now trying to set up book collection points on the East Coast and in California and have a long list of requested books from both Kalamoon University and the University in Aleppo.

I hope I did not bore you with these details.
With my best regards,

Haytham H. Abed

My books will get to Syria

Comments (18)

Alex said:

I wish Mr. Rami Makhlouf and other prominent Syrian Businessmen will setup a library system ala Mr. Carnegie.

Or they can setup computer labs in small towns and villages …Bill Gates is giving away half his fortune … including over a Billion dollars to The United Negro College Fund (UNCF)

July 1st, 2008, 4:45 pm


Hamourabi said:

We really owe Mr. Abed a steal statute to be built in Kalamoun University.
Dear Haytham, I have around 600 well-valued books on legal jurisprudence and I am ready to send to any point you recommend in the US. Please send the full address, as I will ship from Iowa City of Iowa State.

I salute and admire you for your patience! Ghimar

July 1st, 2008, 4:48 pm


EHSANI2 said:


May be Mr. Makhlouf can hand out a donated book every time a Syriatel susbscriber pays his/her monthly bill.

Assuming a one year promotion and a four million pool of customers,
some 48 million books can be distributed when the one year is over.

This will likely far exceed the entire stock of books in circulation in the country.

July 1st, 2008, 4:57 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

I think that this is a wonderful initiative.

We are starting to see more and more wealthy Arabs donate their money to charitable causes in a smart, sustainable way. Recently, Walid b. Talal endowed a major center at AUB, after giving something like $20 million each to Harvard and Georgetown. Hariri and had his endowment, which sent thousands of young Lebanese abroad on condition that they returned.

Establishing a network of libraries would be great, albeit expensive.

July 1st, 2008, 5:05 pm


ausamaa said:


The same proceedures described about is followed at all state controlled, self-respecting accademic institutions, and even high schools in this area. You just do not import and GIVE books to libraries (even in the US I believe) and they just index it and stock it on the shelves. In the Gulf countries it has to pass Ministry of information, Ministry of Education, Kuwait University and whatever other relevant security section dealing with publishing and information. Same even happen at annual book fairs everywhere around here including Egypt, Lebanon and Jordan. My daughter high school here, a private American school, refused my donation of a collection (frankly surplus books I did not want to keep) of business and finance books because it has to be approved by the ministry of education first!!!

July 1st, 2008, 5:20 pm


norman said:

In the days of the Internet , do textbooks have that much value.

July 1st, 2008, 5:52 pm


Alex said:

The original neocon site is down!?


No one is paying the $10 per month hosting fee?

July 1st, 2008, 6:27 pm


ugarit said:


Go here*/

(Very very slow to download, probably best done with wget)

(copy from the first http till the end of index.html)

to see the archived snapshots.

A WHOIS search yields:

Domain ID:D49682011-LROR
Created On:21-Dec-2000 19:28:41 UTC
Last Updated On:26-Jul-2006 23:09:27 UTC
Expiration Date:21-Dec-2009 19:28:41 UTC
Sponsoring Inc. (R71-LROR)
Registrant ID:C5950342-RCOM
Registrant Name:William Kristol
Registrant Organization:William Kristol
Registrant Street1:1150 17th Street, N. W., Suite 505
Registrant Street2:
Registrant Street3:
Registrant City:Washington
Registrant State/Province:DC
Registrant Postal Code:20036
Registrant Country:US
Registrant Phone:+1.2022934900
Registrant Phone Ext.:
Registrant FAX:+1.2024636652
Registrant FAX Ext.:
Admin ID:C29756037-RCOM
Admin Name:Gary Schmitt
Admin Organization:NewCitizenshipProject
Admin Street1:115017thStreet,N.W.
Admin Street2:
Admin Street3:
Admin City:Washington
Admin State/Province:DC
Admin Postal Code:20036
Admin Country:US
Admin Phone:+1.2022934983
Admin Phone Ext.:
Admin FAX:+1.2022934572
Admin FAX Ext.:
Tech ID:C29756041-RCOM
Tech Name:Gary Schmitt
Tech Organization:NewCitizenshipProject
Tech Street1:115017thStreet,N.W.
Tech Street2:
Tech Street3:
Tech City:Washington
Tech State/Province:DC
Tech Postal Code:20036
Tech Country:US
Tech Phone:+1.2022934983
Tech Phone Ext.:
Tech FAX:+1.2022934572
Tech FAX Ext.:
Name Server:NS.CAIS.COM
Name Server:NS2.CAIS.COM
Name Server:
Name Server:
Name Server:
Name Server:
Name Server:
Name Server:
Name Server:
Name Server:
Name Server:
Name Server:
Name Server:

July 1st, 2008, 9:12 pm


ugarit said:

How about eBooks for the Libraries?

July 1st, 2008, 9:22 pm


ugarit said:

Also Syrian universities can go here to retrieve MIT’s open courseware

To automate the download recursively 10 levels down one does:

wget -Nr -l10 -k

Then one can make a DVD of the downloaded content and distribute

Sorry for the geek speak but Alex may understand it 😉

July 1st, 2008, 9:55 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Sure, the Syrian regime is so afraid of bloggers but it will allow eBooks or free access to online databases which they cannot censor.

Until the regime changes in Syria, there is not much hope for higher education there.

July 1st, 2008, 9:57 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

As for donating books, it is usually not useful for universities. They prefer money and buy their own, especially if the books are old. I would highly recommend selling the used books and sending the university the money plus the shipping cost that was saved on sending the books to Syria. Even if it is not a lot, in the end it is much better and faster than shipping old books to them.

July 1st, 2008, 10:13 pm


ugarit said:

AIG said: “Sure, the Syrian regime is so afraid of bloggers but it will allow eBooks or free access to online databases which they cannot censor.

Until the regime changes in Syria, there is not much hope for higher education there.”

I know. I was hallucinating for a moment.

July 1st, 2008, 10:15 pm


ugarit said:

AIG said: “As for donating books, it is usually not useful for universities.” unless the books are on a list that the university needs. Which was implied in the articles, I think.

July 1st, 2008, 10:17 pm


MNA said:

On an unrelated topic, ElAL adv on Syriacomment????

July 2nd, 2008, 2:12 am


Alex said:


Unfortunately Google Ads are semi-random … they work by keywords … if the word “Israel” appears here repeatedly (it does), then Google’s engine decides that there is a good fit for some Israeli ad.

Same with those “meet Arab women” ads.

July 2nd, 2008, 4:29 am


MNA said:

Thank you for the explanation Alex.

July 4th, 2008, 1:34 am


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