Saad Eskander, director of the Iraqi National Library and Archive, is still waging his public battle to wrest control back from a private foundation of key records taken from Iraq after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, according to today's The New York Times.
In February, The Chronicle broke the news that about seven million pages of records on Iraq's Baath Party held by the Iraq Memory Foundation would be transferred to the Hoover Institution, the conservative think tank and library affiliated with Stanford University. The deal between the foundation, which was founded by Kanan Makiya, an Iraq-born professor of Middle East studies at Brandeis University, and the institution followed a bitter and public dispute between Mr. Makiya and Mr. Eskander over the provenance of the records and the propriety of their possession by a private group.
The seven million documents in question are a subset of 100 million documents seized by the U.S. government after the downfall of Saddam Hussein, Iraq's Baathist leader, in the wake of the invasion. Mr. Makiya asserts that he had permission from the U.S.-led coalition forces to remove those files from a series of basement rooms in Baghdad after the invasion, and that he now has legal authority from Iraq's government to collect and possess them until the country is stabilized.
But Mr. Eskander believes that the records properly belong in his national library, and he has sent an open letter to the Hoover Institution demanding their immediate return to Iraq.
"The Baath documents are the property of the Iraqis and the institutions that represent them," writes Mr. Eskander, "and so it is arrogant and unethical for one person (an émigré) to decide the destiny of millions of sensitive official documents that have had and will continue to have considerable impact on the private lives of millions of Iraqi citizens."