The Guardian online has an interview with Saad Eskander, Director of the Iraqi National Archive and Library. The former Kurdish resistance fighter returned to Baghdad in 2003 with a freshly minted Phd from the London School of Economics, and was appointed soon after. It is an almost unimaginable job under heartbreaking and terrifying conditions; he is a tremendously powerful voice for the necessity of access to culture and history in building civil society.
“I want to make the library a democratic model of how Iraq should be. From the start I hired Sunnis, Kurds, Shias, women, men. The national library must be a place – perhaps even the most important place – where Iraqis from many different groups come together.”
Eskander is also vocal about his opposition to the seizure of Iraqi records by US actors, most notably Kanan Makiya’s Iraq Memory Foundation (see 4/22/08 blog post), scoffing at the notion that the documents cannot be made safe in Iraq, and insistent that Iraqis need these documents to understand their past.