Friday, August 10, 2007

Libraries are Not for Burning

During the ethnic cleansing in Bosnia, the Serbs destroyed the Bosnia's National and University Library with incendiary rounds. The goal was not only to destroy not only the Bosnian people, but any evidence that they ever existed, some have suggested this should be called memecide.

[In 1992], Bosnia's National and University Library, a handsome Moorish-revival building built in the 1890s on the Sarajevo riverfront, was shelled and burned. Before the fire, the library held 1.5 million volumes, including over 155,000 rare books and manuscripts; the country's national archives; deposit copies of newspapers, periodicals and books published in Bosnia; and the collections of the University of Sarajevo.

Bombarded with incendiary grenades from Serbian nationalist positions across the river, the library burned for three days; most of its irreplaceable contents were reduced to ashes. Braving a hail of sniper fire, librarians and citizen volunteers formed a human chain to pass books out of the burning building. Interviewed by an ABC News camera crew, one of them said: "We managed to save just a few very precious books. Everything else burned down. And a lot of our heritage, national heritage, lay down there in ashes." |Libraries Are Not for Burning: International Librarianship and the Recovery of the Destroyed Heritage of Bosnia and Herzegovina - IFLA| (emphasis added)
In Iraq, the National Library has been occupied by the Iraqi Army, turning it into a target for the insurgents.
Iraq's national library and archive, one of the country's most important cultural institutions, are in peril after the occupation of the building by Iraqi security forces, the library's director said yesterday.

Saad Eskander, a respected Kurdish historian who has run the library since 2003, told the Guardian that up to 20 Iraqi troops had seized the building at gunpoint yesterday, threatening staff and guards.

"They have turned our national archive into a military target," he said. "Tomorrow or the day after, the extremists will attack the Iraqi forces there.”….

"The reckless actions of the Iraqi forces and the US military, who appear to condone the operation, will put the staff and library and archival collections in real danger," said Mr Eskander…

"We are like many ordinary citizens, caught between the extremists and terrorist on one side, and the Iraqi and US army on their other," he said, vowing he would hold both US army and the Iraqi military responsible for all losses and casualties. |Looting fear as Iraqi state library seized - Guardian|
In Iraq the library isn't being targeted for destruction because of its contents, it is just innocent victim of George Bush's ongoing love affair with the Iraqi people.

Unfortunately, burning libraries has long been a tactic of kings, despots and other opponents of truth.

Libraries have been the targets of censorship since ancient times. History is littered with the destruction of library collections, and libraries themselves becoming flaming pyres on all continents, the deliberate burning of a library recorded in China as early as in 221 BC...

[T]he burning of the entire collection of the University of Oxford library in 1683 was on direct orders from the king. Even in the 20th century, the burning and destruction of libraries has been extensively applied by rulers, as a warning to subversives and a method of ethnic language purging, as was the case in Sarajevo and Kosova.

In 1991 the Serbian government banned Albanian as a language of instruction at all levels of education. During the period 1990- 99, all the libraries in Kosova were subjected to the burning or destruction of the Albanian–language collections, according to reports from the joint UNESCO, Council of Europe and IFLA/FAIFE Kosova Library Mission in 2000. The Serbian governments deliberate cultural ethnic cleansing on the brink of a new millennium will stand as a distressful monument to the enduring tradition of destructive censorship.

Public book pyres were favoured by the Nazi–regime in Germany in the late 1930s as one of their many brutal methods of censorship. The destruction of libraries was systematically applied by the rulers of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, USSR, infamous for the longest lasting and most extensive censorship in the 20th century. |The long history of censorship - Beacon for Freedom of Censorship|

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