Thursday, February 08, 2007

Baghdad Librarian

I have been wondering what life is like for an Iraqi librarian. Well, my curiosity was satisfied in the February 7th edition of the New York Times with an article about the diary kept by Saad Eskander, the director of Iraqi's National Library and Archive. The diary can be read on the British Museum's web site. It details the challenges of working in the middle of a war zone, except this one is filled with suicide bombers and kidnappers. Mr. Eskander's beginning entry for January 22-31 period reads like this:

At 11.30 a.m., intensive exchange of fire in the al-Fadhil area. Most of
the roads were closed. Our guards were re-deployed. One window was smashed as a result of the explosions. 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. I received more bad news about Miss D, an accountant. Her
father and brother were both injured after the terrorists opened fire on them.
The reason for it D 's father and brothers refused to leave their house, after
they received a death threat.

By reading this diary I am humbled: I do not have to risk my life to come to work every day. I hope Mr. Erscander can continue to do his job and hope that he makes it safely through the coming days.

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