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Death by Death
From the Diary of an Iraqi Librarian

The National Library and Archive in Baghdad in April 2003, looted and burned, a week after United States forces seized the capital.

Saad Eskander is the Director of the Iraq National Library and Archive. He’s kept a diary, hosted for him by the British Library, since November. Some excerpts: From November 11: “arrived to the Baghdad International Airport. It is well known that the highway, which links the Airport to the Baghdad City, is the most dangerous road in the world. For a security reason, I asked the taxi driver to drop me at the first military checkpoint, which is by car 3 minutes away from the Airport. One must not trust anybody, especially the Airport taxi drivers. At the checkpoint, my driver was waiting for me with his car. The security police asked us to leave the area immediately, as they were suspicious of abandoned car at the checkpoint. The highway was in a chaotic state, as everyone tried to leave the Airport area, including the policemen and the soldiers, who did not hesitate to point their guns at us, when our car slowed its speed in order to allow their cars to pass!!” November 20: “At 11.00 a.m. I received devastating news. I was informed that Ali Salih was assassinated in front of his younger sister. Ali was a bright young man. I sent him to Florence in Italy to be trained as a web-designer. Upon returning, he and Nadia began to construct and run our official web-site. He was the symbol of the modernization and reform process of the National Library and Archive. I employed him in January 2004, like many other young librarians and archivists. I hoped that the new generation could lead the way.” December 23-28: “It is another bad week for the NLA. On Sunday, I learnt that Ahmed Salih, who was on leave, was murdered by a Death Squad in his own house. Ahmed came from a poor family. After his father's death, he raised his younger brothers and sisters. He worked very hard to educate them. I also learnt that Ahmed was engaged to a girl two weeks before his death. On Monday, I received more bad news. The older brother of Maiadah, who works in the Periodical Department, was murdered by a group of terrorists.” January 22-31, the last paragraph of the diary as of today: “ On Wednesday, 31 Jan., a huge explosion shock our building. I hurriedly went to the second floor and saw a thick black smock rising from a car in al-Bab al-Mudham round-about (200 meters away from the NLA). I asked the security to prevent all members of staff from going outside the building, fearing that there might be another car-bomb. I learnt later that around 15 people were either killed or injured in the explosion. Among the victims were shoppers, passengers and drivers.” Along the way, Saad Eskander drew up a chart of the effects of violence on his staff:

Number Type of impact
4 Unlawful Death (assassinations)
66 Unlawful Death of Relatives (e.g. Sons, Daughters, Brothers, Sisters, Cousins, Uncles, Aunts, Nephews)
2 Kidnapping
6 Kidnapping of relatives (e.g. Sons, Daughters, Brothers, Sisters, Cousins, Uncles, Aunts, Nephews)
58 Death Threat
51 Displacement
3 Plundering
3 Damage to Houses
3 Other Material losses

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