Iraq National Library and Archive closed

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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.

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