Coordinators of the global Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here project have been organizing a letter-writing campaign to support the restoration of Dr. Saad Eskander to his post as Director-General of the Iraq National Library and Archive (INLA), a post he held until this past April:
Dr. Eskander was then sent, as Director-General, to another government agency, “which he described as steeped in corruption and futility, and a venue that permitted him no initiative, so he resigned from that, and is now out of government,” according to scholar Jeff Spurr.
According to Spurr, Dr. Eskander is presently based in Sulaimaniya, advising the regional parliament with regards to the establishment of a Kurdish national library and archive.
Spurr writes that the director-general who replaced Dr. Eskander at the library has since left, and that the INLA is now being run by an acting director. Its digitization, restoration, and acquisition efforts have stalled since April, according to Spurr, although the AP recently ran a story about ongoing digitization efforts, for which they interviewed acting director Jamal Abdel-Majeed Abdulkareem.
In a letter for the Iraqi Embassy written by Helen Frederick, the DC Coordinator of the Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here project, and co-signed by other project members, Frederick writes: “Dr. Eskander’s courageous achievements under the most difficult of circumstances to keep a library alive under a corrupt hierarchy of the ministry of culture, under siege of national treasures, and with full understanding to protect his staff, many of whom he lost over these past years, is to be regarded with the highest respect.”
During Eskander’s time, he also worked to re-acquire illegally seized archives taken by US government authorities.
Beau Beausoleil, founder of the Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here project, wrote in an email to project participants:
Dr. Eskander is a long time supporter of our project and welcomed a complete set of our letterpress broadsides into the Iraq National Library’s archives in 2013. He was truly a rock of stability in his position and has always spoken the truth to those in power, be they the American Military, or those running the Iraqi Ministry in Baghdad that controlled his budget and tried to influence the progressive course that he had set the National Library on.
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