Dr. Saad Eskander's forced departure from Iraq's National Library and Archives deplored

Historians in the News

Jeffrey B. Spurr is an independent scholar of Islamic textiles, and of the history of photography in the Middle East. During 26 years at Harvard, he developed and managed collections of historical photographs (ca. 1850-1970) of the Middle East and adjacent regions.

Burned hulk of the Iraq National Library and Archives

Friends and colleagues,

Chuck Jones recently sent a brief announcement to the list of Dr. Saad Eskander's forced departure from his post.  Dr. Eskander has not only achieved the impossible in creating a flourishing and constantly growing institution quite literally from out of the ashes, but has done so while struggling against the most daunting odds, including the ill-will and meddling from his own and other Iraqi ministries.  Dr. Eskander's ouster is another example of the shocking incapacity of Iraq's leaders for wise and effective governance.  His Facebook announcement was forwarded to me (I am not a member).  I trust he will not mind my including it here:

My dearest friends and colleagues,

I'd like to inform you that corrupt elements within the hierarchy of the ministry of culture have been able to force me out of my post with the help of the new minister, who is an ignorant and arrogant person. This minister even does not know the full name of my institution, its location or its tasks! My staff wanted to resist the Minister's decision, but I discouraged the idea, as I did not want them to be hurt. 

I seize this opportunity to express my gratitude to all of my friends in Europe and America for the way they supported my institutions, my staff and me over the years. 

God Please you all

Since it was not only dedicated to Dr. Eskander but addressed his role at the INLA in considerable detail, I am taking the liberty of sending a paper to the list that I gave this past November to remind everyone of his extraordinary achievements.  Of course, I have written about his work and my admiration for him and his achievements before, but offer this as my latest and perhaps last tribute, which begins after an extended introduction concerning the travails of libraries past, and the role of power, state and otherwise, in their creation and undoing.  


Jeff Spurr

comments powered by Disqus