Sunday, July 26, 2009

Some Backsliding to the Bad Old Days in the New Iraq

The Iraq Crisis and Museum Security Lists note the following:

First, there is a move to reimpose censorship within Iraq:

Jenan Hussein, writing in Inside Iraq, reports "that the Iraqi Ministry of Culture, in cooperation with the Ministry of Interior, has decided to censor the importation of books from outside thecountry and restrict printing them inside the country".

Second, the Iraqi Government has signalled an interest in aggressively seeking its "stolen" documents. By this, I assume Torah scrolls that have left the country.

Asharq Alawsat (Leading Arabic International Daily): From a Q&A with Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari: Q) The issue of Iraqi documents taken to the United States after 2003 was raised. Are you going to demand them during the prime minister's visit to Washington? A) The issue was raised by Iraqi judicial parties. The Iraqi documents are owned by the Iraqi state, like the stolen antiquities. It is our duty and task to retrieve all our documents, antiquities, and possessions in the world. Therefore the issue is being pursued through the legal channels.

Link to full text of Q&A:

The New Iraq is certainly a far better country than the Old Iraq of Saddam Hussein. However, it is troubling when the New Iraq acts like the Old Iraq in censoring books and demanding repatriation of artifacts like Torahs. For a critique of Iraq's claims to Torahs see:


Chuck Jones said...

The Iraqi authorities would like to see the return of quite a lot of things, in accordance with both Iraqi and American law.

As you surely know, Saad Iskander,Director of the Iraq National Library and Archives, has been seeking the return of Iraqi archival material expropriated by US military and intelligence agencies during the war. See for instance:
so it is not simply a matter of "artifacts like Torahs".

Cultural Property Observer said...

It should be noted Joffe also addresses Saad Iskander's point in his post as follows:

Jeff Spurr's objections regarding the Iraq Memory Foundation, Baath party archives, and the Hoover Institution, are similarly vehement. One wonders, however, about what sort of access scholars might have had to those archives had the Saddam regime not been destroyed. Perhaps a latter day Hanna Batatu would indeed have been granted access, in due course. But the lustration procedures so painfully and inadequately implemented in Germany with respect to Stasi files, and not at all in places like Romania, seem unlikely in the present Iraqi political climate, and wholly impossible in the previous one. Here historical comparisons are plentiful, if ambiguous, at least from a strict legal point of view.

I suspect at some time in the future Iraqi archives will be returned to Iraq, but hopefully there will be safeguards first to ensure that certain items do not disappear or are otherwise are misused for purely political purposes.

Chuck Jones said...

It would be nice, for the casual reader, if you would identify quotations, and cite the source of material you use here: IraqCrisis, the Museum Security List, my old friend Alex Joffe's text in response to something my other old friend Jeff Spurr wrote. All of these quotations have contexts...

Cultural Property Observer said...

I think the identifications are sufficient for purposes of this blog. Anyone really interested in full contexts should feel free to perform a search of the cited lists. Still, I'm afraid those discussions often get a bit too involved for my purposes here. My point is to highlight issues from my own particular perspective. This blog is not meant to be a discussion list, though [reasonably] polite comments are welcome.

Since you feel free to give me advice, let me suggest to you that I find the coverage of IraqCrisis to be uneven. I've had several posts to your list either rejected outright or ignored as have others who don't agree with an "archaeology over all" approach. At the same time, I have seen more than a few posts on your list from individuals associated with the archaeological community that are either outright ad hominem attacks or otherwise press the archaeologoical agenda but have absolutely nothing at all to do with Iraq. (For example, I have no idea why you allowed IraqCrisis to serve as a rallying point for those pressing for import restrictions on coins of Cypriot type.) It seems like a double standard is at work, though IraqCrisis is run off University servers and should be open equally to all views. My blog, of course, is my own enterprise so the same rules need not apply.