Baghdad Library In Flames, Oil Stations 'Safe'.

As free-for-all looting and sabotage swept many Iraqi cities over the past days, Iraq's National Library was in flames late Sunday, April 13, after being ransacked by looters under the watchful eye of U.S. Marines, who were heavily guarding Kirkuk's oil and gas facilities, as the area contains about a third of Iraq's oil.

The library, built in 1961, is home to Iraq's national archives and houses some of the worlds rare books and volumes, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported.

A Baghdad mob looted Iraq's largest archaeological museum, which housed a major collection of antiquities from the cradle of civilizations, Friday, April 11, amid a breakdown in civil authority following the collapse of Saddam Hussein's regime.

Jordan's Education Minister Khaled Tuqan on Saturday, April 12, called on UNESCO and the U.S.-British forces to intervene immediately to protect Iraq's cultural heritage from looters.

The U.N. agency and U.S.-led forces "who control Iraqi cities must intervene to protect Iraqi antiquities from destruction in line with international convention," Tuqan said.

At a meeting with Ndeye Fall, UNESCO's representative in Amman, Tuqan voiced Jordan's "deep concern over the looting that has also targeted (Iraqi) antiquities". Meanwhile, Jordan's ambassador to France, Dina Kawar, sent an official letter to UNESCO chief Koichiro Matsuura's

calling for the "need to take all the necessary measures to protect Iraqi antiquities".

Earlier Saturday, the director general of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural organisation called on U.S. and British authorities to immediately protect Iraq's cultural heritage amid lawlessness and widespread looting in Iraqi cities.

Iraq, among the earliest cradles of civilisation and home to the remains of such ancient Mesopotamian cities as Babylon, Ur and Nineveh, has one of the richest archaeological heritages in the world.


Meanwhile, Iraqi academics mourned Sunday the looting and burning of Basra University.

The dean of the university, Abdul Jabar al-Khalifa, surveyed the charred wreckage of his offices Sunday in Basra University and then explodes: "Tell me, is this the freedom of Iraq or the freedom of thieves?"

In the widespread orgy of violence which accompanied the taking of Basra by British troops on Tuesday, April 8, the city's university was soon overrun.

Computers, air conditioning units and furniture were all carted off before mobs set fire to large parts of the campus.

"The British are to blame. They allowed the people to come in and did not stop them," said the dean.

"They stole everything and then they poured petrol and set it alight."

The university has been closed since the start of the U.S.-led campaign on Iraq and is now unlikely to open again this academic year.

The looting was a sour reminder of the events of 12 years ago when civilians in Basra rose up against Saddam at the end of the last Gulf War before their revolt was brutally crushed.

"We had something like this in the 90s but this time it's like a typhoon," said Mahmud al-Habib, an 81-year-old economics professor, who has taught at the university since it opened in 1964.

"It's a disaster. I have seen the university born, so for me it's the end of the world. Heartbreaking."

Al-Habib, who previously taught in Texas, also castigated the British for standing idle. "They did not make any effort for the first few days. They did not move until too late," he said.

Barak Jawad, a lecturer in common law, said the mob who had targeted the university should be regarded as common criminals rather than forgiven as opponents of Saddam who were venting pent-up anger.

"Look, here is still a picture of Saddam," he said, pointing to a large poster of the dictator attached to a lamppost on the campus.

"The statue of Saddam outside is still there, no one has touched it. Bush said the actions of the Iraqi people are normal after years of severe barbarism but it's not normal.

"This is nothing to do with politics, these are just thieves," said Jawad.

Habib said that the damage would not deter the academics from returning to their jobs even if they were not paid for many months. "I'm a soldier, not of the gun but with the pen," he said.

Little of the university appeared to have escaped the attentions of the mob. A lecture theatre which once held around 200 students had seen most of its seats ripped out as well as all the light fittings and air conditioning system.

Slides and film reel could be seen scattered among the broken glass on the floor.

The U.S. and UK forces came under diatribe for encouraging the chaotic scenes to justify sending additional troops and appear with its agents as the sole solution in the eyes of the Iraqi people.

[Source: IslamOnline.net & News Agencies, Baghdad, 14apr03]

War in Iraq and Global State of exception

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This document has been published on 16abr03 by the Equipo Nizkor and Derechos Human Rights, in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.