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February 28, 2005

Preservation of Iraqi Archives is Subject of Symposium on March 8

Millions of Seized Records Document Saddam Hussein’s Regime

The preservation of more than 6 million records documenting Saddam Hussein’s regime will be the subject of a symposium to be held at the Library of Congress from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Tuesday, March 8, in Room 119 of the Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First St. S.E., Washington, D.C. The event, which is sponsored jointly by the Near East Section of the Library’s African and Middle Eastern Division and the Iraq Memory Foundation, is free and open to the public. Tickets are not required, but seating is limited.

Participants will include Alaa al-Tamimi, the mayor of Baghdad, and Kanan Makiya, director of the Iraq Memory Foundation. Makiya, an Iraqi exile, established the Iraq Research and Documentation Project at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University to study Iraqi documents seized in the aftermath of the 1991 Gulf War. This work continued until 2003, when the project was transferred to the newly created Iraq Memory Foundation with offices in Baghdad and Washington, D.C.

The mission of the foundation is to document the rule of Iraq between 1968 and 2003. The foundation is in charge of a huge collection of documents, including 3 million pages of reports and correspondence from the Baath Party headquarters (Hussein’s regime used the Baath Party as a tool to control state and society); 2.4 million pages that document actions taken during Hussein’s regime in the 1980s, such as the Iran-Iraq war, the Kurdish insurgencyand the Anfal campaign against the Kurds in the final phase of the Iran-Iraq war; and 800,000 pages gathered by coalition forces upon the retreat of the Iraqi military from Kuwait that detail the treatment of the civilian population as well as the conduct of war in 1990-91.

Selected scanned documents will be on display at the symposium, and a short film featuring testimonies of survivors of Baathist atrocities will also be presented.

As part of a State Department effort, a Library of Congress team visited Baghdad in October 2003 to assess war damage to the National Library of Iraq and the House of Manuscripts. The team, consisting of the Library’s area specialist for the Arab world, the chief of the Anglo-American Acquisitions Division, and a Preservation Directorate specialist, found that some of the archival records documenting Saddam Hussein’s regime since 1977 were methodically incinerated while bound volumes in the library remained intact. The group documented its findings in a report that is accessible on the Library’s Web site at www.loc.gov/rr/amed/iraqreport/iraqreport.html.

The Library of Congress has maintained offices abroad since 1962 to acquire, catalog, preserve and distribute library and research materials from countries where such materials are more difficult to acquire than through conventional acquisitions methods. The Library currently has six regional offices -- in New Delhi, Cairo, Rio de Janeiro, Jakarta, Nairobi and Islamabad -- whose collective acquisitions effort covers more than 60 countries. Iraq had not been participating in this program since the Gulf War in 1991 but resumed in 2004. Since that time, the Library has been able to purchase significant retrospective materials from Iraq. More information on the Library's acquisitions from around the world under this program can be found on the Web at www.loc.gov/acq/ovop/.

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PR 05-046
02/28/05
ISSN 0731-3527

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