8 June 2003


Nabil Al-Tikriti []

University of Chicago



[This report was originally distributed by e-mail and posted on the IraqCrisis list. It is published here with the kind permission of the author.]






On 25-31 May, I visited Baghdad and interviewed a number of officials working with manuscript (MSS) collections, libraries, and academic research facilities. While in certain key cases the damage sustained by collections was not as severe as initially reported, there are significant losses and a great deal of work lies ahead to reconstitute such facilities in the coming months and years.


In the course of my visits, it became immediately apparent that Iraqi MSS collections and libraries have several needs which should be addressed as soon as possible. Such needs include:

- restoration of physical premises

- replacement of plundered equipment

- reconstitution of respective collections

- comprehensive inventory and cataloguing of all MSS collections as they stand today

- replacement of published works and non-original document copies lost in the looting

- comprehensive microfilming and data storage of all MSS, to guard against future losses

- immediate and ongoing collection of contemporary Iraqi publications (incl. 55+ newspapers)


In order to counter widespread conspiracy theories concerning the looting and burning experienced in the first week after Baghdad's fall, an independent international commission should fully investigate the events described below -- especially since the looting appears to have been encouraged by unknown provocateurs and the incidents of burning appear to have been fully intentional and pre-meditated. Such an international commission might also be able to address rather dark accusations of “inside job” looting made by at least one UK journalist.


The events described in this report began at least two days after the 8 April entry of US troops into Baghdad and continued for several days -- until international media attention appears to have forced a policy change. Although insufficient US forces were committed to control the entire city, the forces at hand were capable of providing security to any facility they were ordered to protect -- demonstrated by the protection afforded to the: Ministry of Oil, Palestine Hotel, Sheraton Hotel, airport, Republican Palace, and other strategic locations. Most of the facilities covered in this report were concentrated in two small areas which had a sufficient US troop presence (i.e. 2-3 tank crews) in the area to prevent the events described below. When US soldiers were asked to protect the facilities in question, the invariable response was either that “we are soldiers not policemen,” or that “our orders do not extend to protecting this facility.” Considering that the US Defense Department was publicly warned of the potential for looting of cultural treasures by Prof. McGuire Gibson and several other experts, those in command of US forces appear to have knowingly neglected their legal duty under the "international law of belligerent occupation" to "restore and maintain law and order" -- which includes preventing the looting and burning of public facilities [see:]. For that reason, a case can be made that the US Government should be held legally responsible for the events described below, and should be obliged to compensate these facilities for their losses.


Whether or not the US government chooses to recognize such an obligation, the multi-million dollar set of investments required to renovate and bring these facilities back up to international standards pales in comparison to the reported 60 billion USD commitment required to prosecute the recent war and occupation. As such an investment is likely to foster a certain amount of good will for an occupation authority currently in great need of local good will while searching for appropriate patronage outlets, its financing should be given serious consideration.


On 8 June, a British journalist named Mr. Cruickshank -- who visited Iraq in late April -- accused the National Museum staff of being entirely Ba'athist operatives who stole their own artifacts. He also cited US soldiers who stated that the museum had been used as a defensive military position during the fall of Baghdad. While Iraqi soldiers may have attempted to defend the National Museum from invading US forces on 8 April, none of those Iraqi soldiers were present when museum staff requested protection from looting on 10 April. Although Mr. Cruickshank's documentary (“Raiders of the Lost Art”) suggests that US forces were not responsible for looting because they encountered resistance at cultural facilities, the Iraqi resistance faced on 8 April in no way justifies the US absence of protection on 10-14 April.


In recent weeks, the CPA [Coalition Provisional Authority: the US/UK occupation authority, formerly known as ORHA] and the Civil Affairs units of the US military have made preliminary efforts to address the situation. The current civilian contacts for such efforts are Amb. Pietro Cordone and Mr. Fergus Muir of the CPA. The current military contacts for such efforts are Col. A.J. Kesel, assisted by Majs. Cori Wegener, Chris Varhola, and Wes Somners of the Civil Affairs Unit. These three majors, each reserve officers with advanced academic training in anthropology, museum curatorship, and other relevant fields, were extremely helpful and were doing their utmost in the circumstances. Maj. Wegener has to date concentrated her efforts on assisting the National Museum, while Maj. Varhola has concentrated his efforts on NGO liaison. Maj. Somners has taken on various assignments related to the Baghdad zoo, monuments, art collections, and other miscellaneous issues.


When I visited, most facility staff members were continuing to work in trying circumstances, without pay or any assurance of future job security. Although there were significant losses, the efforts of Iraqi staff to preserve their cultural heritage in the midst of invasion, social chaos, and occupation should be recognized and rewarded by the international community. In my own interviews and visits, I encountered nothing to suggest that MSS collection staff acted improperly vis-a-vis their respective collections.


As I did not physically see a single MS in the course of these interviews, I cannot personally vouch for the physical state of the preserved MSS. I have photographed some of the damaged facilities, and plan to have such photos developed and posted shortly. As many of the interviews were conducted in some haste, certain details (especially chronological details) provided below may be open to clarification in the future. I have intentionally avoided mention of political matters concerning the individuals and institutions in question.


While it did not affect the research presented here, it was made quite clear to me by one US official that permission would not have been granted for my visit, had it been sought. Official permission for experts' delegations may not be forthcoming until the full reconstitution of the respective Ministries. This process had begun vis-a-vis the Culture Ministry while I was in Baghdad. On 28 May, a 25 member Iraqi ministerial steering committee elected a four member board, to which the CPA added two other members. This board is intended to act as a “proto-Minister” of Culture, with control over the Bureau of Tourism, the Antiquities Board, the Convention Center, and various other facilities. Mr. Muir indicated that there may be a future initiative to concentrate all MSS and published holdings in a new National Library to be housed at the main building of the Iraq Officers' Club, although “the final decision rests with the Iraqis, of course.”


In May, Ayatollah Sistani issued a fatwa which argued against revenge killings and prohibited the buying or selling of antiquities. This fatwa, in conjunction with earlier clerical exhortations to return stolen artifacts and US efforts to tighten border inspections, appears to have had some positive effect.


1) DAR AL-MAKHTUTAT AL-'IRAQIYYA / Iraqi House of Manuscripts [formerly Dar Saddam lil-Makhtutat / Saddam House of Manuscripts]: On 27-28 May, I interviewed Osama Naqshbandi, the director of the collection, and Ms. Dhamya, his assistant, at the Dar al-Makhtutat facility on Haifa St. They reassured me that the collection is complete and safely stored at bomb shelter #12 in Hayy Dakhiliyya, “near the railroad junction” [said to be climate-controlled, and never hotter than 25 degrees]. Luckily, this shelter was never targeted by US/UK forces. The shelter has reportedly only been opened on one occasion, and Mr. Naqshbandi steadfastly refused to allow an NBC News film crew headed by Jim Avila to enter the shelter while I was interviewing them. Mr. Naqshbandi provided me with a great deal of general information on smaller Iraqi MSS collections, which I have included at the end of the report.


According to Mr. Naqshbandi, in the course of the 1991 uprising ca. 20,000 MSS were endangered by events in the provinces -- although only 346 publicly-owned MSS were confirmed lost and subsequently listed as such in an effort to recover them. In addition, ca. 1000 MSS from the Baraki, Kashani, and other private collections of Najaf and Karbala were reportedly taken to Iran in the course of the 1991 uprising. As a result of this experience, and in accordance with longstanding Ministry of Culture efforts to centralize all MSS collections in one facility, several collections were absorbed into the main collection in the 1990's. In addition, in the course of the 1990's Dar al-Makhtutat staff had microfilmed 8 million folios from 15-20,000 MSS and preserved on CD-Roms 250,000 images from illuminated MSS and other rare MSS. Finally, in accordance with the 1974 Antiquities Law, each governorate did a survey of private and public MSS collections. The results of this survey were kept in box files at the Dar al-Makhtutat, which were moved into the shelter along with the MSS prior to the war.


Efforts to save the collection from the impending war began 4 months prior to the war and continued right up to the week immediately prior to hostilities. In the course of these efforts, all MSS were taken to the shelter, microfilms to a second (undisclosed) location, and CD/Roms to a third (undisclosed) location. According to Mr. Naqshbandi, his staff undertook such protection measures even though they did not have official Ministry permission to move the collection and were asked to slow their efforts by the Minister of Culture, Hamid Yusuf Hammadi.


Today, the shelter contains nearly 800 steel trunks of MSS, including ca. 500 trunks of Dar al-Makhtutat MSS, ca. 200 trunks from other collections, and 83 trunks of rare published books. These trunks contain ca. 50,000 MSS, including ca. 47,000 from the Dar al-Makhtutat collection and ca. 3,000 MSS from other collections, including:

- Iraqi Academy of Sciences: 667 MSS [including 68 unpublished works of Mustafa Jawad]

- Mosul Central Library, 301 MSS

- University of Mosul Library: 122 MSS

- University of Tikrit: 40 MSS

- Kirkuk Central Library, 40 MSS

- University of Mustansiriyya [Baghdad]: ? MSS

- University of Basra: ? MSS


According to Mr. Naqshbandi, during the museum looting (right around the corner from Dar al-Makhtutat) he saw four US tanks near the museum who refused to intervene as it was not in accordance with their orders. On 10 April, while looting was taking place at the National Museum, Mr. Naqshbandi went with Mr. Jabir Khalil Ibrahim, the National Museum Director of Antiquities Research, to the Palestine Hotel and requested protection from Col. Francis (?) of the US forces. Although Col. Francis promised immediate assistance, four days passed before protection arrived. At some point during this period, looters entered the Dar al-Makhtutat preservation facility -- which had not been moved -- and stripped it of all computers, microfilming equipment, and preservation materials. Mr. Naqshbandi presented me with a hand-written inventory of lost items, which I turned over to Maj. Cori Wegener for translation and dissemination.


The bomb shelter reportedly has 4 sets of doors and is under continuous armed guard. On 3 occasions looters tried and failed to force the doors and loot the shelter. On each occasion the “neighborhood” chased the looters away and burned their vehicles (including a Mercedes). On 13 April (?) Mr. Naqshbandi appealed to Col. Francis to protect the shelter as well. At some point (ca. 25 April), Mr. Naqshbandi granted Col. Francis and several (US, UK, Italy) journalists a tour of the shelter. This party should have included USMC Col. Matthew Bogdanos and the UK journalist Mr. Cruickshank, who stated incorrectly -- and rather crassly -- that the trunks in question were “from the National Museum...but were only full of books.”


After seeing the shelter's items, Col. Francis [Col. Bogdanos?] responded by requesting Mr. Naqshbandi's permission to transfer all MSS to the museum, which was refused on account of the museum's looting. Col. Francis insisted, returning to the shelter with 5 trucks, a tank, and soldiers. This attracted a crowd. When Col. Francis offered 5 USD to members of the crowd to help his soldiers move the trunks, crowd members responded that they “would not even accept 1000 USD” to move the MSS. The soldiers then removed 30 trunks to the trucks before the crowd's protests grew sufficiently convincing that they relented, returning the 30 removed trunks to the shelter. At that point, “special locks” (seals?) were placed on the shelter doors, and the soldiers departed. Roughly a week later, Amb. John Limbert, the ORHA (Office of Reconstruction & Humanitarian Assistance) official in charge of cultural affairs at the time, visited the shelter. Amb. Limbert -- who made a far more positive impression on Mr. Naqshbandi than Col. Francis -- offered to assign a tank crew to protect the shelter, but this offer was declined. Maj. Chris Varhola, the Civil Affairs NGO Liaison Officer, later confirmed that current CPA policy is not to duplicate protection services in situations where local security measures appear to be sufficient.


According to Mr. Naqshbandi, there are currently 20 neighborhood individuals who have volunteered to build a wall around the shelter and provide armed protection. Mr. Avila of NBC News confirmed only that a family was “hanging out” at the shelter. As I did not find the time to visit the shelter, I cannot confirm the state of the MSS or the security arrangements at this time.


When Mr. Avila requested an interview inside the shelter, Mr. Naqshbandi stated that he would only open the shelter if Col. Francis or his supervisor, Mr. Jabir Khalil Ibrahim, were both to agree. In the course of their negotiations over access, Mr. Naqshbandi expressed disappointment with Western reporting concerning his preservation efforts, citing articles stating that 40,000 MSS had been “found” in a shelter.


As the Dar al-Makhtutat facility is based in a set of houses appropriated by the state in 1983, it is unclear whether the MSS will ultimately be returned to the same location. While I was present, one of the original owners of the house hosting the Dar al-Makhtutat facility visited Mr. Naqshbandi to state his claim for return of property. Neither the Dar al-Makhtutat staff members nor the family sharing the house with Dar al-Makhtutat appeared surprised or upset by the visit.


2) MAKTABAT AL-AWQAF AL-MARKAZIYYA / Ministry of Endowments & Religious Affairs Central Library:

On 29 May I interviewed the Awqaf library staff and inspected the library remains. Established in 1920, the Awqaf library is the oldest public MSS collection in Iraq. A modern two story facility located near the Ministry of Health, the library building was absolutely destroyed by fire on 14 April (13 April?). As with Dar al-Makhtutat, the Awqaf staff had taken steps to protect their collection, moving ca. 5250 out of their total of ca. 7000 MSS to a protected storage space prior to the burning and looting. Unlike Dar al-Makhtutat, the Awqaf staff had Ministry permission to move their MSS prior to the war. According to the staff, these ca. 5250 MSS remain under armed protection in an undisclosed location. Although staff members know where the MSS are stored, they did not feel at liberty to disclose the location to me.


1744 MSS -- the remainder of their holdings -- were packed in 32 metal trunks and brought to the Qadiriyya Mosque complex, where they were placed under armed guard. According to the staff, US forces in the first week of occupation tended to assume that all armed Iraqis were either “Fedayeen Saddam” or some other hostile element. As a result, on 14 April (13 April?) a Qadiriyya armed guard named Abu Sa'd Khalil was shot and killed by US forces while guarding the complex and defending the MSS collections. On the same day, a rumor spread around the Qadiriyya neighborhood that the 32 trunks contained US dollars rather than MSS. As the Qadiriyya mosque guards had either been disarmed by US troops or fled, the Awqaf staff decided to move these 32 trunks back to the Awqaf library out of fear of neighborhood looters following the USD cash rumor and the guards' abandonment of the collection.


Due to the same “shoot on sight” circumstances which led to the killing of the Qadiriyya armed guard, the Awqaf library was no longer under armed guard. According to the staff, on the same afternoon that the 32 trunks were moved back to the Awqaf library, there followed a highly organized and intentional looting and burning. Some staff initially suggested that US troops had filmed the burning, but when pressed they referred me to the Ministry driver `Abd al-Karim Sa'id, the primary eyewitness to the events. According to Mr. Sa'id, roughly 15 Arab males in civilian clothes drove up to the library in various vehicles, including a white Lada and a white VW Passat with “TV” taped onto their windows and bodies. While most of the men proceeded to remove MS trunks and burn the library, two men (civilians) remained at the entrance filming the event. Once 22 of the trunks were removed, the men used some sort of yellow substance to burn the entire library under 15 minutes. The staff pointed to residue of the yellow substance on ventilation shafts, and it appeared to resemble some sort of phosphate. They also showed me a small plastic container which they think contained the substance. When shown this, I asked the staff not to clean the library until such time as a proper investigation could be carried out. As the library -- a crime scene -- has not yet been cleaned and cleared, the Awqaf library may provide a useful site for criminal investigation.


Although the staff was convinced -- as were most Iraqis -- that Kuwaitis were behind this looting and burning, they admitted that they have no evidence to prove the assertion. As one staff member put it, “Iraqis might have stolen the MSS for personal profit, but they would never have burnt them.” They were certain, however, that Kuwaitis were in the city at the time, based on over-hearing the dialect. That Kuwaitis acted as guides and/or translators for the invading US forces was an assertion made by many eyewitnesses, and appears to be accurate. That such guides, or other Kuwaitis, were involved in the looting is a widespread assertion, but remains unproven.


A 1987 published catalogue provides detailed information on most of the Awqaf collection. Since 1987, ca. 1200 MSS were added to the collection, and most of these MSS were not catalogued. As the staff had acted to protect their core collection first, most of the lost 1744 MSS contained in the 32 trunks were from 3 collections which had been recently added to the Awqaf collection for safekeeping:

            - Kamal al-Din al-Ta'i collection: 250 MSS

            - Salih Salim Suhrawardi collection: 350 MSS

            - Hasan al-Sadr collection: 589 MSS [on loan during renovation of Musa al-Kadhim complex]

The remaining 555 lost MSS should have come from the Awqaf library's core collection.


In the course of the pillage, 22 trunks were removed and 10 were burned. The staff does not know which trunks were burned and which were removed, but are hopeful that the contents of the 22 removed trunks will resurface in the future. At ca. 60-70 MSS/trunk, they estimate that ca. 600-700 MSS were permanently lost in the flames, and showed some carbonized folios as proof of the damage.


3) NATIONAL LIBRARY & ARCHIVES / Dar al-Kutub wa al-Watha'iq:

This facility, located right across from the Ministry of Defense, was completely burned and looted. Due to limitations of time, I was unable to visit this facility during working hours. From the outside, it is clear that no materials could possibly have been preserved on site. As this site also appears not to have been cleaned and cleared, it may also prove useful for a criminal investigation.


Osama Naqshbandi of the Dar al-Makhtutat reported that the National Library had 12 million documents. It was said to be particularly strong holdings in Arabic periodicals (“the largest Arabic newspaper collection in the world”) and documents from the period of Hashemite rule (1920-1958), in addition to a few documents dating from the period of Ottoman rule (1534-1918). Although he felt that the periodical collection was completely lost, Mr. Naqshbandi had heard that some of the more important documents may have been taken to a safe place by archival staff, but was not sure.


4) BAYT AL-HIKMA / House of Wisdom:

This facility, a semi-private center supporting research in the arts and humanities, was completely burned and looted. It is located right next to the Ministry of Defense, on the site of a 13th century madrasa complex and the first Iraqi parliament. This facility housed a lecture auditorium, music hall, printing press, computer lab, Western publications library, and a library of Middle Eastern publications.


Although the madrasa complex itself was relatively unharmed, an Ottoman costume exhibit housed in the madrasa was completely looted. The 19th century (?) building complex, which housed the printing press, lecture auditorium, music hall, and several libraries, was almost completely looted. Although the second floor was largely burned, 2-3 shelves of recovered published works have been placed in two of the rooms. Air conditioners, computers, printers, books, light fixtures, desks, and chairs were stripped from the complex. A courtyard on the ground level contained piles of office files, mostly accounting documents and administrative correspondence.


On 29 May I interviewed Prof. `Abd al-Jabbar Naji, the Chair of the Bayt al-Hikma Department of History. According to Dr. Naji, on 11 April several groups of looters entered the facility. In the morning, the looters took air conditioners, generators, computers, and other portable items of value. In the afternoon, the looters took the new computers in the 2nd floor computer lab, and started to burn the main music hall on the 2nd floor. They then stripped the lecture auditorium, which may have also been hit by a bomb, as its roof was blown inward from the outside. Once the looters had stripped and burned the 2nd floor, they took a grand piano, as well as chairs, platforms, etc. On 12 April, the looters returned, stripping the library and publications department of most of their books and valuable items. Although it is unknown whom the looters were, staff drivers who witnessed the looting were convinced that the looters were instigated.


According to Dr. Naji, due to the 1974 Antiquities Law, Bayt al-Hikma was not officially authorized to collect MSS. As a result, their MSS collection was relatively small, holding only ca. 100 MSS. Although a small collection, these ca. 100 MSS included the following: a 9th century Qu'ran, a 12th century copy of Maqamat al-Hariri, an Ibn Sina philosophy text, and a 19th century al-Alusi MS concerning Baghdad. This entire collection was lost -- there were no microfilms or microfiche taken of this collection. As it was unclear whether these MSS were stolen or burned, they may re-surface in the future.


Bayt al-Hikma possessed several other useful research collections which might be replaced in the future from other sources. These collections included:

- 5500 volume set of UK Foreign Office documents covering Iraq and the Gulf region, purchased from a library in Geneva.

- 5 volume set of French government documents relevant to WWI & WWII.

- US Congressional documents concerning Iraq's 1940 coup.

- certain documents relevant for the former Jewish community in Baghdad.

- 15 volume set of Ottoman Tapu property registration documents dating back to the 18th century.

- 15 volume set of Ottoman-era Mahkama Shar'iyya court documents.

These collections were all copies. According to Dr. Naji, the originals of the Ottoman tapu and mahkama shar'iyya documents were held in the National Library. As that facility was burned, it is possible that these documents were lost completely.


Administratively, the pre-war Bayt al-Hikma budget was 500 million ID, or ca. 500,000 USD. This budget supported some 70 permanent staff members and 90 external contractors. Prior to hostilities, there was ca. 50 million ID / ca. 50,000 USD in their bank account. Following the war, the entire Bayt al-Hikma staff was paid 20 USD to return to work. Regulations issued by ORHA-CPA in late May simplifying the civil service pay structure were applied to Bayt al-Hikma staff. Following a visit by Amb. Cordone and a certain Prof. Joseph Clad of the White House (?), ORHA granted Bayt al-Hikma 17,000 USD for renovation of their administrative buildings.


In recent weeks, books from the Bayt al-Hikma collection have been seen on sale in the square just outside the complex's entrance. When I passed through this square I noticed several recent model computers and printers on sale on a donkey cart, as well as some academic journal issues being sold on the sidewalk. Although Dr. Naji was grateful for the 17,000 USD ORHA renovation grant, he appealed for funding to pay for re-purchases of stolen items, as well as for reconstituting their collections.


Dr. Naji asked that their security situation be improved, as their guards are currently not allowed to bear arms and their wall perimeter has not yet been sufficiently secured. While there is no longer much to steal, their guards are quite insecure in the evenings, and as long as security is inadequate, Bayt al-Hikma will remain unable to rebuild their facility's holdings. Their main contact for security matters is Col. A.J. Kesel of the Civil Affairs Unit, in charge of “Special Functions.”


5) IRAQI ACADEMY OF SCIENCES / al-Majma' al-`Ilmi al-`Iraqi:

The Iraqi Academy of Sciences, located in Waziriyya, is a fully independent research facility dating back to the monarchic period. Considered an “Iraqi Academie Francaise,” the Academy held collections of MSS, periodicals, foreign language books, and unpublished theses. It also boasted an internet computer lab with 20+ terminals, printing press, lecture rooms, and offices for affiliated researchers, On 29 May I visited the Academy with Mr. Zayn Naqshbandi, and briefly interviewed Mr. Muhammad Khudeir `Abbas, the Director of Administration. In addition, we were given a tour of the facility by Mr. Khalid Khadr Qadir (driver/guard) and Mr. Jalil Wahhab Salim (guard/cafe director), eyewitnesses to the Academy's looting. Both Mr. Qadir and Mr. Salim lost all their personal possesssion in the looting, as the Academy-provided flats on the facility's grounds in which they lived were also pillaged.


Although I did not find out which day the Academy was looted, the way it happened suggests that it should have occurred quite soon after the city's fall. According to staff members, the pillage started after a US tank crew crashed through the facility's front gate, rolled over and crushed the facility's main sign, removed the Iraqi flag flying at the entrance, and left. Following that cue, looters swarmed over the facility and stripped it of all computers, air conditioners, electrical fixtures, furniture, and vehicles. Academy staff blamed local poor for the looting rather than Kuwaitis. The fact that the Academy was not burned -- and that many books were not looted -- suggests that its looting was not as organized as in the case of some other facilities.


In recent years, several Academy MSS were transferred to Dar al-Makhtutat -- probably the 667 MSS referred to by Mr. Naqshbandi as having been transferred from the Academy. According to Mr. `Abbas, the Academy still held over 2000 MSS and 58,000 published works. Included in these ca. 2000 MSS were: 93 unpublished works by the historian `Abbas al-Azawi and a Selcuk-era `Umar al-Suhrawardi MS. Since no MSS were burned, the looted sources may re-surface in the future. Indeed, roughly half of `Abbas al-Azawi's unpublished works had already been returned, and were being stored in Mr. `Abbas' office. A catalogue of the entire Academy MSS collection was published prior to the collection's partial transfer to Dar al-Makhtutat. In addition, there was a hand-written catalogue of Academy MSS, but this catalogue disappeared along with the MSS. Finally, although the entire collection had been preserved in photostat copies (?), these copies were looted along with the originals. The MSS room itself was completely empty during my visit.


According to Mr. `Abbas, approximately half of the Academy's collection of 58,000 published works were looted. Mr. Zayn Naqshbandi estimated published losses at 80%, which seems more accurate. Although most of the rooms I visited were completely bare, there were 4-5 shelves of books and journals in the facility's Foreign Languages Library, which concentrated on Turkish, Persian, and Kurdish publications. Another room, filled with bound Master's Theses from Baghdad universities between the 60's and 80's, was untouched. In one room, old newspapers were strewn all over the floor. Reportedly, damaged books from the Academy's own printing press were being stored in the basement. The printing press facilities were largely undamaged as the machines were too heavy to move, and a new publication of an 18th century text was in various stages of publication [`Abd al-Rahman `Abd Allah al-Suwaidi al-Baghdadi, Hadiqat al-zawra fi sirat al-wuzera, ed. `Imad `Abd al-Salam Ra'uf, Baghdad: Iraqi Academy of Sciences, 2003].


Some refurbishment efforts were underway during my visit: a conference table, 20 swivel chairs and a coffee table had recently been donated by the Univ. of Mesopotamia [Bayn al-Nahrain] for Medical Sciences [formerly the Univ. of Saddam for Medical Sciences].



This collection reportedly has 1883 MSS, in addition to published works. Although I was unable to visit this collection, all sources state that the collection was not harmed in any way.


7) DEIR AL-ABA AL-KRIMLIYIN Collection, Baghdad:

According to Mr. Osama Naqshbandi, this collection had ca. 120 MSS, mostly consisting of the personal writings of al-Ustadh Mari al-Krimli. This collection should be included in a published catalogue of Iraqi Christian MSS completed by Dr. Boutros Haddad in 1997.


8) MAKTABAT AL-HIDAYA, Baghdad (?):

This collection had ca. 500 MSS, and its condition is unknown. [source: Osama Naqshbandi]



This facility is a centralized collection of published works intended for university researchers. According to Dr. Naji of Bayt al-Hikma, this facility was neither looted nor burned.



This library, containing medical textbooks and research publications, was not looted [source: Dr. Walid al-Hashimi, Mustansiriyya University].



This library, containing medical textbooks and research publications, was looted [al-Hashimi]



This library, containing medical textbooks and research publications, was looted [al-Hashimi]



This collection had an unknown number of Christian MSS, and was reportedly moved to a church in the al-Dura neighborhood of Baghdad prior to the war, under the protection of Dr. Yusuf Habbi. [Naqshbandi]



This collection had an unknown number of MSS, and its condition is unknown. [Naqshbandi]



This collection had an unknown number of Christian MSS, and was reportedly moved to a church in the al-Dura neighborhood of Baghdad prior to the war, under the protection of Dr. Yusuf Habbi. [Naqshbandi]



This collection had ca. 400 MSS, including a unique copy of an al-Maqrizi history text. It is reportedly OK. [Naqshbandi]



ca. 60 MSS, reportedly OK. [Naqshbandi]



ca. 120 MSS, reportedly OK. [Naqshbandi]



This collection had 402 MSS, which are said to be OK and catalogued in a published catalogue. [Naqshbandi]


20) MAKTABAT AL-AWQAF, Sulaymaniya:

ca. 6000 MSS, reportedly OK. [Naqshbandi]



ca. 350 MSS -- including several rare MSS, reportedly OK. [Naqshbandi]



ca. 1200 MSS, reportedly OK [Naqshbandi]



ca. 3000 MSS, reporedly OK [Naqshbandi]



ca. 1600 MSS, reportedly OK [Naqshbandi]



ca. 3000 MSS, reportedly OK [Naqshbandi]


26) MAKTABAT AL-JAMAL AL-DIN, Suq al-Shuyukh, Nasiriyya:

ca. 180 MSS, unknown condition. [Naqshbandi]


27) [Unknown Name] CLERIC's PRIVATE COLLECTION, Diwaniyya:

ca. 300 MSS, unknown condition. [Naqshbandi]


28) BASH A'YAN AL-'ABBASIYYA Collection, Basra:

ca. 1200 MSS, unknown condition. Mr. Naqshbandi believes that the collection should have been adequately protected by the leading families of Basra, and should thus be OK.


Contacts List [Further Details Available Upon Request]:

CPA:   Amb. Pietro Cordone (not met)

            Fergus Muir (interviewed)

US Military: Col. A.J. Kesel, Special Functions Unit (not met)

            Maj. Cori Wegener, US Military, Civil Affairs (interviewed)

            Maj. Chris Varhola, US Military, Civil Affairs (interviewed)

Maj. Wes Somners, US Military, Civil Affairs (met, but not interviewed)

Dar al-Makhtutat: Osama Naqshbandi, Director (interviewed)

            Ms. Dhamya, Asst. Director (interviewed)

Awqaf: Buthayna `Abd Allah Qaysi, General Director of Awqaf Libraries (met, but not interviewed)

            Hasan Freih, Awqaf Central Library Director (interviewed)

            Salah Karim, MSS Section Head (interviewed)

            Baqir Hamid, Researcher (interviewed)

            Muhib al-Din Yasin, Microfilm Section Head (interviewed)

            `Abd al-Karim Sa'id, Driver (eyewitness to burning and looting, interviewed)

Bayt al-Hikma: Dr. Adnan Yasin Mustafa, General Director (met, but not interviewed)

            Prof. `Abd al-Jabbar Naji, Chair, Department of History, Bayt al-Hikma (interviewed)

Iraqi Academy of Sciences: Dr. Mahmud Hayyawi (not met)

            Ms. Juwan, “Umm Ibrahim” (not met)

            Muhammad Khudeir `Abbas, Director of Administration (interviewed briefly)

Khalid Khadr Qadir, driver/guard (eyewitness, interviewed)

Jalil Wahhab Salim, guard/cafe director (eyewitness, interviewed)

National Library & Archives: Ra'ad Bardar, General Director (no longer working)

National Museum: Donnie George

Dr. `Imad `Abd al-Salam Ra'uf, historian (not met)

Zayn Naqshbandi, independent scholar, Mutanabbi St. bookseller (interviewed)

Dr. Nizzar `Abd al-Latif al-Hadithi, Univ. of Baghdad Dean of Arts and Sciences (no longer working)

Dr. Salim `Abud al-Alusi (has not yet returned to work)

Dr. Jamil Musa al-Najjar, Univ. College of Teachers at Univ. of Mustansiriyya (not met)

Dr. Walid al-Hashimi, Mustansiriyya University Medical School professor (interviewed).


I thank Edouard Metenier for providing a detailed list of contacts in Baghdad, Hakim Khaldi of MSF for providing logistical assistance and guidance upon my arrival in Baghdad, and Zayn Naqshbandi for accompanying me on 29 May. The interviews conducted for this report could not have been arranged in such a short time without their assistance.














Dar al-Makhtutat al-‘Iraqiyya /

Iraqi House of Manuscripts

[formerly Dar Saddam lil-Makhtutat / Saddam House of Manuscripts]

47,000 own MSS,

3,000 other MSS from the Academy, Mosul, Tikrit, Kirkuk, Basra

Collection transferred to Shelter #12, Hayy Dakhiliyya; preservation facilities looted.

Osama Naqshbandi

Ms. Dhamya


Maktabat al-Awqaf al-Markaziyya /

Ministry of Endowments & Religious Affairs Central Library

7000 MSS.

Ca. 5250 MSS transferred to undisclosed location,

Ca. 600-700 MSS burned,

Ca. 1000-1100 MSS looted

Facility burned.

Buthayna ‘Abd Allah Qaysi

Hasan Freih

Salah Karim

Baqir Hamid

Muhib al-Din Yasin

‘Abd al-Karim Sa’id,

National Library & Archive /

Dar al-Kutub wa al-Watha’iq

12 million documents, published books.

Facility looted & burned.

Rumors of some docs saved.

Ra’ad Bardar

Bayt al-Hikma /

House of Wisdom

100 MSS,

US, French, Ottoman, UK document copies

Facility looted & burned.

Some MSS may re-surface.

Adnan Yasin Mustafa,

‘Abd al-Jabbar Naji

Iraqi Academy of Sciences /

Al-Majma’ al-‘Ilmi al-Iraqi


2000 MSS,

58,000 published books.

Facility looted, but not burned.

Ca. 80% books looted,

Some MSS returned.

Mahmud Hayyawi,

Ms. Juwan, “Umm Ibrahim,” Muhammad Khudeir ‘Abbas,

Khalid Khadr Qadir,

Jalil Wahhab Salim.

Qadiriyya Mosque Collection

1883 MSS



Deir al-Aba al-Krimliyin

120 MSS

Christian MSS, OK?


Maktabat al-Hidaya, Baghdad?

500 MSS

Condition unknown


Univ. of Baghdad Central Library /

Al-Maktaba al-Markaziyya

research collection of published works



Mustansiriyya University Medical School Library

medical textbooks, research publications


Walid al-Hashimi

Mustansiriyya University Main Library

research collection of published works



Baghdad Medical College Library

medical textbooks, research publications







Deir Mar Behnam, Mosul

unknown number of Christian MSS

Reportedly moved to al-Dura neighborhood of Baghdad

Yusuf Habbi

Maktabat Karakosh, Mosul

unknown MSS number

Condition unknown


Deir Mar Matti, Mosul

unknown number of Christian MSS

Reportedly moved to al-Dura neighborhood of Baghdad

Yusuf Habbi

Madrasat al-Jalili, Mosul

400 MSS



Maktabat Mahmud al-Jalili, Mosul

60 MSS



Maktabat al-Mufti, Arbil

120 MSS



Salah al-Din University, Arbil

402 MSS

OK?, published catalogue


Maktabat al-Awqaf, Sulaymaniya

6000 MSS



Al-Shaykh Muhammad al-Khal, Sulaymaniya

350 MSS

Includes rare MSS, OK?


Dar al-Makhtutat in Mosque of Hussein, Karbala

1200 MSS



Maktabat Amir al-Mu’iminin, Najaf

3000 MSS



Maktabat al-Hakim, Najaf

1600 MSS



Maktabat Kashif al-Ghita, Najaf

3000 MSS



Maktabat Al-Jamal al-Din, Suq al-Shuyukh, Nasiriyya

180 MSS

Condition unknown


Cleric’s Private Collection, Diwaniyya

300 MSS

Condition unknown.


Bash A’yan al-‘Abbasiyya, Basra

1200 MSS










Middle East Librarians Association Committee on Iraqi Libraries Home Page

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MELA NOTES: The Journal of the Middle East Librarians Association

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Revised: June 9, 2003
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