Sunday, April 08, 2007

Iraqi National Library Update

Saturday's Washington Post has a lengthy feature on Dr. Saad Eskander and the state of Iraq's National Library:

After the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, looters pillaged and burned the library. Now, on the brink of the fourth anniversary of Saddam Hussein's fall, and several weeks into a new security offensive, Eskander and his staff are struggling to preserve the fragments of Iraq's ancient heritage at a place he calls the "historical memory of the country."

"What makes a Kurd or a Sunni or a Shia have something in common is a national library," he said. "It is where the national identity of a country begins."

The library today is humming with young employees. Religion and politics are checked at the door. But the same forces fracturing Iraq are slowing the library's progress: violence, bureaucracy, sectarianism, political rivalries and a lack of basic services.

The piece, which also includes a number of quotes from Dr. Eskander's online diary, is well worth reading, as is this recent interview with PBS (link courtesy of Jack Stephens).

It is amazing that Dr Eskander and his staff are able to carry on in the face of the violence and corruption he describes. Words cannot do justice to their courage.


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