Literature & Stories

Running a nice quiet library in today’s Baghdad


In the midst of all that has gone wrong since the United States took the unilateral decision to invade Iraq and topple dictator Saddam Hussein, one man, Saad Eskander, director of Baghdad’s national library, has a vision to rescue his country by cultural education. And he wants the US to surrender looted papers.

Irony of ironies, US President George W Bush’s wife Laura is a librarian by profession. Her husband doubtless cares little that Iraq descends from one the world’s oldest civilisations or that 60 per cent of the national library’s archives were looted after the invasion.

Recently, Eskander listed the “sad notes” that have happened since he stopped writing his blog: 95 library windows smashed by a car bomb; a receptionist’s son kidnapped and murdered for “sectarian reasons”; an archivist’s son missing for five months; a library worker’s husband missing for six months.

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