Wednesday, February 07, 2007

A Brave Librarian in Baghdad

Today's New York Times includes an inspiring but ultimately tragic story about Saad Eskander, the director of Iraq's National Library and Archive in Baghdad. Dr. Eskander, who is working under harrowing conditions to safeguard the collection and protect his staff, is keeping a diary of his experiences. The diary is available over the British Library website. "Written in a flat, unemotional style, the entires relate the bombings, blockades, shootings, threats, shortages and petty frustrations that make up everyday life for the cadre of civil servants working at Iraq's main cultural and literary storehouse. A complaint that heating fuel prices are 40 times higher than in the fall is followed by a report on the assassination of one of the library's bright young Web designers and the need to ask the government to keep the electricity on." The British Library has been publishing the diary since December 30, but it includes material from mid-November. One of the most sobering parts of the diary is Dr. Eskander's chart that makes clear the impact of sectarian violence on his staff for just the month of December: four employees assassinated and two kidnapped, "66 murders of staff members' relatives, 58 death threats and 51 displacements." I can't even imagine working under conditions like this, and am very proud of be part of a profession that that includes people like Dr. Eskander and his staff.

1 comment:

Betsy McKenzie said...

Dear Marie,
This is astounding and heartbreaking. Thank you for passing it along!