Friday, March 30, 2007

uncertain fate of a librarian

Here are entries for two recent days from the diary of Saad Eskander, head of INLA, Iraq’s national library and archives. The British Library is making the diary available in blog format at this address:
Monday, 19 March
The snipers attacked a number of civilians from their positions in al-Fadhel. The INLA had electricity for only 40 minutes. Power-cuts began to effect our work, especially in the Computer and Micrographic Departments. I raised the issue of repairing the Generator with the engineer of the Ministry of Culture. She told me that she was doing her best to have it repaired, but some people in the Ministry were hindering the paperwork for unknown reason. Corruption and restricted regulations have prevented me from repairing the generator since mid-2006.

Around 10.50, I supervised the first phase of the election for the Managerial Council, in which 26 librarians and archivists participated. They elected three young women for the second stage.

I was surprised to receive an appreciation letter from the Minister of Culture for proving my patriotism during Al-Mutananbi gathering last week!!

I received unconfirmed information from Mrs. Ni., the head of the Catalogue Department of the Library, that yesterday the US Army arrested Mr. J., who was one of her librarians. No one knew the true reason or the circumstances. I decided to wait until Tuesday, hoping that I would receive more detailed information concerning the arrest of the librarian. During the last few weeks, several members of the INLA’s staff had their homes searched by the US army and the National Guards, especially those who live in the so-called ‘hot areas’ of Baghdad, such as al-A’dhamiyah, al-Ghazaliyah and al-Jame’ah.

Around 12.20, because of a bomb explosion a number of people were either killed or injured inside a well-known Mosque in al-Shurjah. Some people thought it was suicide attack while others thought it was a bomb planted in one the Mosque corners.

Tuesday, 20 March
We had no electricity at all. Several departments were unable to work, such as the Micrographic Laboratory, Restoration Laboratory and the Computer Department. I sent one of my staff to the local electricity distribution station. He was told that the reason for the power-cut was that the main cable was severed for unknown reasons and the repairmen would restore the power in a few days. Last year, because of a similar incident, the INLA did have electricity for more than 4 weeks. The repairmen will not work unless they get an order from their engineers; the engineers will not issue order until they receive in advance some payment; the repairmen will not execute the orders properly until they get their share from the payment. It is a vicious circle. The same fact applies to all other public services, such as telephone and water. Corruption has been the main problem since the early 1990’s. It has now become far more dangerous than terrorism.

As Wednesday is the Kurdish New Year and a public holiday, the staff received their monthly salaries on Tuesday.

Around 10.30, I supervised the second phase of the election for the Managerial Council, in which 19 librarians and archivists participated. Two people were elected for the next stage, a young woman and a young man. I had a brief meeting with the staff of the Computer Department to discuss some issues, including the new salary system, which will be applied next month. The new system will raise the salary of all those people whose grades are between 4 and 10 by 60 to 45 percent.

Mr. Q gave more information concerning the arrested librarian. He informed me that a group of armed men wearing the National Guards’ uniform went to Mr. J.’s house at 20.00. After they checked his ID card, they ordered him to go with them. He was allowed to change his clothing. Now, Mr. J’s family is worried. His wife and brother are not sure that the armed men were National Guards. One has no choice but to wait. Usually, members of organized crimes contact the family of the victim after a few days, asking for a big ransom, whereas the religious extremists will sometimes ring the family of the victim, informing it about his fate. I decided to wait until next Sunday, before I send an official letter to the Ministry of Defense to ask about the fate of my librarian.

As I strongly believe that the main ethnic groups, the Arabs and the Kurds, must share each other s’ national celebrations, I decided to give all my staff one day off on next Thursday. In this manner they will have four days break (i.e. from Wednesday to Saturday). Needless to say, everybody was over the moon by my decision and I became the most loved director, at least for a few minutes!

Before leaving the INLA to go to the Directorate of Kurdish Culture, three representatives of INLA’s al-Ferdos woman society gave me a nice present on the occasion of the Kurdish New Year. I thanked them very much for their nice gesture.

I spent one hour in the Directorate of Kurdish Culture, signing papers and reading the mails, before leaving to go to my home.

In the evening, I spent some time, answering a number of messages which I received from some of my staff and friends, congratulating me on the Kurdish New Year.

{Caption from An Iraqi man collects books from the destroyed Iraqi National Library in Baghdad, April 17, 2003. The head of a U.S. presidential panel on cultural property has resigned in protest at the failure of U.S. forces to prevent the wholesale looting of priceless treasures from Baghdad's antiquities museum. "It didn't have to happen," Martin Sullivan said of the objects that were destroyed or stolen from the Iraqi National Museum in a wave of looting that erupted as U.S.-led forces ended President Saddam Hussein's rule last week. Photo by Gleb Garanich/Reuters}

I've blogged the Eskander diary before; am cross-posting from the work blog again.

1 comment: