Through a few people at the British Library and over the IraqCrisis email list today, I received an urgent message from Dr. Saad Eskander, Dir. of Iraq's National Library and Archive (INLA). I don't have time to comment on it at the moment, but I've reprinted the message in full (with a couple inconsequential grammar edits). To whoever reads this--offer help however you can:
I hope this message finds you 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 a 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.
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 wrongdoings of the national guards and those who are behind them.