Le site web de la British Library héberge et publie de manière irrégulière le blog de Saad Eskander. Jusque là rien de particulier, à ceci près que M. Eskander est le Directeur de la Bibliothèque et Archives Nationales en Irak, à Bagdad. Il y raconte les difficultés rencontrées pour maintenir la bibliothèque ouverte, préserver documents et archives et, évidemment, rester vivant au milieu des attentats terroristes et des menaces de mort...

Diary for the Period 1-6 January 2007
On the eve of the Eid, one of the Iraq National Library and Archive (INLA) guards received a death threat. I asked him to stay at the INLA and not go home until he finds another place. Baghdad was relatively quite during the Eid Holiday. There were some big explosions and terrorist attacks. The areas surrounding the INLA (i.e. Al-Fadhal and Haifa) were still bad in terms of security, even during the holiday. The snipers were very active. The areas were shelled by mortars. The people of Baghdad suffered from acute shortage of fuel and electricity.

(...) One of the old librarians, Yyyyy, who suffers from heart problems, informed me that yesterday (Sunday 7 Jan.) a group of armed men stopped the car she was traveling in. The armed men asked all the passengers for their IDs. After reading her full name, they ordered her to get out of the car. Her full name clearly indicates that Yyyyy was Shi'i. Luckily, other Sunni passengers intervened and succeeded in persuading the armed men not to kidnap her. It was a terrifying moment for Yyyyy. She asked me to give her a permission to stay at home for a few days..

Quant à la situation de la bibliothèque elle-même, le directeur explique lui-même sur le site internet les conséquences désastreuses qu'a eu la guerre :

Immediately after the collapse of the Saddam regime and in the middle of the ensuing chaotic situation (9-12 April 2003), some arsonists set fire to various parts of the INLA’s main building, causing considerable structural damages. Almost all the equipments were destroyed or carried away. Most importantly, serious damages were inflicted upon the INLA’s collections of book, journals, files, records, photographs and maps. The Republican archive (1958-1979) was destroyed in its entirety. It is estimated that the library lost 25% of its collections, including its rare books, whereas the archive lost 60% of its collections, including invaluable Ottoman records.

Lors de la chute du régime de Saddam Hussein en 2003, la bibliothèque fut incendiée et pillée causant des dommages important tant au bâtiment qu'aux collections : 25% des collections de livres dont des livres rares et 60% des archives dont certaines remontant à l'empire Ottoman ont ainsi été perdus. Afin de l'aider dans ce travail de préservation et de reconstitution des collection, ce directeur est en contact avec la British Library qui essaie de lui envoyer des livres et des microfilms et récemment (début mars) avec la Library of Congress :

I received an important email from our the representative of the Library of Congress. I was asked to sign a Memorandum of Understanding that will establish the principles on which the LC and the INLA can cooperate. The INLA will benefit from the LC's World Digital Library. The LC's officials, whom I met last year, kindly agreed to provide us with the necessary equipment and to train some of our staff. I highly value this project, as a numbered countries from the Third World have been able to enter the world of digital library.

(...) At last, I was able to sign an important Memorandum between the Library of Congress and the INLA. The memorandum establishes the principle of cooperation between the two institutions on the World Digital Library project. The memorandum will be supplemented by a technical agreement that decides what equipment and training will be needed to implement the project. I am pinning my hopes on this project to scan a huge portion of our collections of invaluable historical newspapers and journals, before we lose them forever. The colour of the papers changed into dark yellow and became extremely fragile. In other words, these collections are on the brink of total destruction. This state of affair is result of several factors, notably neglect of the former directors, the inexperience of the staff, the negative effects of the mid-April Fires, and the power cuts that have prevented us from providing the right temperature and humidity in the storage areas

Mais apparemment, les contacts demeurent ténus et sporadiques. Parallèlement, il essaie de sortir de la tutelle du ministère de la Culture -très visés dernièrement par les attaques mais surtout complètement paralysé par une guerre intestine entre sunnites et chiites- pour gagner plus de champs libre dans l'exercice de ses missions et se voir rattaché directement à la présidence.

Les travaux ne manquent pas. Le laboratoire de restauration s'active et les bibliothécaires des différents département avec eux à restaurer les ouvrages endommagés par la fumée, la poussirères et les hautes températures (dues notamment au climat). Les fréquentes coupures de courant ou l'absence d'air conditionné n'arrangent rien. parallèlement il faut continuer à classer, cataloguer, corriger les éventuelles erreurs de centaines d'autres livres. Par ailleurs s'occuper du site internet avec le peu de moyen en matériel et financier relève de la gageure...

Le dernier billet date du 10 mars, après l'attentat dans une rue proche de la bibliothèque où se tenait une foire aux livres tous les vendredi et qui a fait une trentaine de morts.