Resolution on Libraries and Cultural Resources In Iraq

WHEREAS, ALA Policy 53.7 on Destruction of Libraries states: “The American Library Association deplores the destruction of libraries, library collections and property, and the disruption of the educational process by that act, whether it be done by individuals or groups of individuals and whether it be in the name of honest dissent, the desire to control or limit thought or ideas, or for any other purpose”; and

WHEREAS, The U.S.-led coalition’s military defeat of the Iraqi Government resulted in a period of violence and loss of civil order throughout Iraq, the cradle of Western civilization and a place of great historic, archaeological, and religious significance; and

WHEREAS, Those conditions resulted in looting and arson that gutted the National Library and Archives in central Baghdad, and the destruction of a large part of the collection, including priceless, irreplaceable materials; and

WHEREAS, The nearby Al-Awqaf library was also razed by fire, destroying valuable Islamic manuscripts; and

WHEREAS, Collections in other libraries around Iraq, including major university libraries, were also looted, and facilities and collections damaged or destroyed; and

WHEREAS, The priceless collections of ancient artifacts, including some of the earliest known writings, held by the National Museum of Iraq were likewise looted or vandalized; and

WHEREAS, Scholars warned U. S. authorities well in advance of the need to protect such cultural treasures; and

WHEREAS, In the occupation of Baghdad U. S. forces were able to protect certain ministry buildings but did not secure the buildings housing the libraries, archives and cultural artifacts; and

WHEREAS, Cultural institutions such as libraries and museums are vital resources in the establishment of a civil society; and

WHEREAS, The reconstruction and rebuilding of libraries is critical to the cultural reconstruction of Iraq, and professional library experts need to be included as part of mission teams to assess the damage and make recommendations in consultation with Iraqi library professionals; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED,  That the American Library Association (ALA) deplores the inaction of the U.S. and British authorities to secure cultural institutions to prevent the loss of precious cultural resources in Iraq; and, be it further

RESOLVED, That ALA urges the U. S. Government to ratify and comply with The Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and its Second Protocol; and, be it further

RESOLVED, That ALA urges the U.S. Government to provide funding for the reconstruction and rebuilding of libraries and other cultural institutions in Iraq, and to collaborate with UNESCO and other international and national bodies working to remedy this loss to the cultural record of humanity; and, be it further

RESOLVED, That ALA urges the U. S. Government to ensure that library experts be included in upcoming missions to Iraq to provide professional evaluation and assessment in the international effort that is needed for the cultural reconstruction of Iraq; and, be it further

RESOLVED, That this resolution be sent to the President of the United States, members of Congress, the Secretary of Defense, and the Secretary of State.

Adopted by the
Council of the American Library Association
Wednesday, June 25, 2003
Toronto, Canada

Keith Michael Fiels
Secretary of the ALA Council

Back to ALA-International Resolutions