Iraq national library invaded by troops

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Iraqi troops have stormed the country’s national library as the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) and the International Council on Archives (ICA) urge immediate intervention from the Iraq Government.

According to Iraq’s National Library and Archive (INLA) director, Saad Eskander, members of the Iraqi National Guard invaded and occupied INLA premises, in Baghdad, earlier this month, placing staff, library collections and archives at risk.

‘The national guards… simply entered the building by force,’ says Eskander. ‘They 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 prior [government] approval.’

Eskander says the national guards claim to be protecting Shi'i visitors of the holy shrines of al-Kadhimiyah, some 30km away. Iraqi and American forces are reported to routinely commandeer houses and buildings as part of military operations.

The Iraqi incident follows an incident, only two days earlier, in which a US military patrol forced entry into INLA's main building. ‘This is not the first time US patrols have entered the INLA without my permission,’ adds Eskander. ‘In July, US soldiers entered the INLA three times. It seems clear to me that their actions have encouraged Iraqi national guards to do the same.’

The IFLA and ICA have demanded the Iraq Government respect the integrity of the INLA, asserting: ‘[We] deplore any action that might further compromise the security of the INLA and the safety and well-being of its collections and staff.’

Requesting support from his ‘friends in Europe’ Eskander says: ‘I hold both US Army and the Iraqi National Guards responsible for all future material damages, cultural losses and human casualties.’