Joint statement of IFLA and ICA: On the security of the Iraq National Library and Archives
The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) and the International Council on Archives (ICA) note with grave concern reports from Dr Saad Eskander, the Director of the Iraq National Library and Archive (INLA) in Baghdad, that on 8 August 2007 members of the Iraqi National Guard forced entry and occupied the premises of the Iraq National Library and Archive in Baghdad. This follows an earlier incident in which a US military patrol entered INLA’s main building without the Director’s permission.
Dr Eskander advises that these actions put at risk INLA’s staff, its building and its library and archival collections. He also advises that these actions are a violation of the instructions of the Iraq Council of Ministers, which clearly assert that Iraqi security and armed forces cannot enter any state-run institution without prior approval of the government and the responsible authorities. IFLA and ICA deplore any action that might further compromise the security of the INLA and the safety and well-being of its collections and staff and draw attention to the good progress being achieved under the most difficult of circumstances by Dr Eskander and his staff in the reconstruction of the INLA following the serious losses suffered in 2003.
IFLA and ICA express professional solidarity with Dr Eskander and his staff and call upon the Government of Iraq and the appropriate military authorities to respect the integrity of this important cultural institution.
Peter Johan Lor
Joan van Albada
10 August 2007
Notes for editors:
IFLA is the global voice of the library and information profession. Established in 1927, IFLA currently has some 1500 members in 50 countries. Together, IFLA’s association and institutional members represent over 500.000 librarians and library workers serving almost two billion registered library users worldwide. IFLA is an accredited Non-Governmental Organisation enjoying consultative status to the United Nations. For more on IFLA, see: www.ifla.org
ICA represents the archives authorities of more than 180 countries and records and archives professionals from 1,169 archival institutions and 211 individual members from more than 190 countries. ICA is an accredited Non-Governmental Organisation enjoying consultative status to the United Nations. For more on ICA, see: www.ica.org
Appendix: text of message sent by Dr Eskander
I hope this message finds well.
I would like to inform you that the unruly national guards are continuing their aggression against the INLA and its staff.
This morning, (8 August), a group of Iraqi national guards has broken into the National Library and Archive’s main building.
By this action, the national guards have violated the instructions of the Council of Ministers, which clearly assert that Iraqi security and armed forces cannot enter any state-run institution without a prior approval of the government and the concerned authorities.
The national guards took their action without consulting or asking me; they simply entered the building by force. As the government declared 4-day curfew period, I was not able to go the INLA to be with the INLA’s guards, who did not know what to do. Therefore, I talked to the commander of the national guards by phone, asking him politely to leave the building immediately. He refused to consider the idea of evacuating the building, claiming that he had orders from his superiors and the Americans to occupy the NILA. He justified his action by claiming that the national guards wanted to protect Shi’i visitors of the holy shrines of al-Kadhimiyah, which is 30 km away from the INLA!!
I would also like to draw your attention to the fact on Monday (6 August), a US military patrol entered the INLA’s main building without my permission. The commander of the patrol interrogated the INLA’s guards and ordered them to show their IDs. Please note, this was not the first time in which US patrols entered the INLA without my permission. In July, US soldiers entered the INLA three times. It seems clear to me that the actions of US soldiers’ have encouraged Iraqi national guards to do the same, i.e. entering and then occupying the building by force.
By the way, US army units and the national guards have their own bases in the same old building of the Ministry of Defense, where they coordinate their security efforts. The old building of the Ministry of Defense is just opposite the INLA.
I contacted US authorities In Baghdad indirectly, hoping to stop the violations and the unlawful actions of both US soldiers and Iraqi national guards against the INLA and its staff. They showed no interest whatsoever.
As you and others are fully aware, my staff and I have spent a lot of time and efforts on the reconstruction of the INLA, after it was destroyed in mid-April 2003. The reckless actions of US Army and the Iraqi National Guards will put the INLA’s staff and library and archival collections in real danger. I hold both US Army and the Iraqi National Guards responsible for all future material damages, cultural losses and human casualties.
I need your support and that of your colleagues.
I will ask some of my friends in Europe to support us whatever the means.
I will not cease my efforts to expose the wrong doings of the national guards and those who are behind them.