Closing the Iraq National Library & Archive

Sent: 27 November 2006 14:12

To: Iraq Crisis List

Subject: [Iraqcrisis] Iraq National Library and Archive

Friends and colleagues,

I have just received the grave and deeply dispiriting news from Dr.
Saad Eskander that he has closed the Iraq National Library and Archive
for the time being as of last Tuesday. On 15 November, he informed me
that his institution had been bombed thrice in three weeks, and
subjected to sniper fire, including directly into his own office.
Another young librarian was recently murdered, and the building had been
shelled several times in the few days previous to the closing (by which
I assume he meant mortar fire).

Dr. Eskander has been a model of progressive action, has increased his
staff substantially, and has striven very hard to gain them training on
several fronts, and otherwise restore functioning to an institution that
was twice set on fire during the initial period of American occupation.
Prompted by a question from me concerning how he was managing to keep
such a large staff coming to work under such perilous circumstances, he
informed me last spring that he was dedicating 30% of his budget to
bussing them all back and forth each day, although three of his drivers
had been murdered in the process.

However necessary, this was financially untenable as a long-term
accommodation to the exigencies of the times. As we all know, the
situation has only grown worse since then, and the repeated direct
attacks on his institution made it a place he could no longer ask his
staff to serve. The forces of intolerance are thriving, and those
institutions and persons representing a progressive and hopeful future
for Iraq are under assault and in retreat.

Yours truly,




Jeffrey B. Spurr

Islamic and Middle East Specialist

Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture Fine Arts Library, Harvard University Fogg Art Museum

32 Quincy St.

Cambridge, MA 02138-3802

[contact information deleted at the discretion of the editor. --MN]