Diary of an Iraqi librarian

A New York Times article yesterday discussed the Diary of Saad Eskander, Director of the Iraq National Library and Archive, which appears sporadically on the British Library website. According to the Times:

For a month now, Dr. Eskander’s intermittent diary entries have been appearing on the Web site of the British Library (bl.uk/iraqdiary.html), and they detail the daily hurdles of keeping Iraq’s central library open, preserving the surviving archives and books and, oh yes, staying alive…. Working to replace rare books and documents that have been destroyed, Dr. Eskander has been in touch with the British Library ever since the Iraq Library and Archive was burned and looted in 2003 when Mr. Hussein’s regime fell. The British Library is trying to send another shipment of microfilm and books, Ms. Finlayson said, although, she added: “Our contact is quite sporadic — it’s difficult to get material there. It’s hard for him to keep in touch.”

The journal details the unimaginable difficulties of operating a library in times of war. Here is an excerpt from Dr. Eskander’s most recent entry:

I was informed on the same day that two of our technicians were kidnapped by unknown armed men in Al-Ghazaliya area. Fortunately, both were realised unharmed, thought they were verbally abused. Mr. C, the head of the Restoration Laboratory, received a death threat. He and his family left their house. I visited the Restoration Laboratory. It was hit by 5 bullets. Two windows were broken as a result. One of the restorers told me that her brother was murdered ten days a go for sectarian reasons. Another restorer told me that he cousin, who lived in Mosul, in northern Iraq, was also murdered for sectarian reasons. I did not know about these two incidents. I discovered that a number of my staff do not inform the administration about their ordeals for fear of reprisals.

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