Scholars and academics have criticised the British Library after it refused to host a large collection of Taliban-related documents that date to the 1990s — including newspapers, maps, books of Sharia law, poetry — due to concerns that it may contravene terrorism laws.
The digital archive of documents relating to when the Taliban ruled Afghanistan was offered to the library by a consultancy representing the Taliban Sources Project. The archive is seen as a window to the worldview and practices of the Taliban.
A British Library spokeswoman said in a statement: “Although the archive was recognised as being of research value, it was judged that it contained some material which could contravene the Terrorism Act, and which would present restrictions on the Library’s ability to provide access to the archive for researchers”.
The academics behind the project said they were disappointed by the library’s decision, and would now offer it to universities in the US. The archive includes over 2 million words translated from Pashto to English.
Academic Alex Strick van Linschoten told The Guardian: “There is already a decent amount of fear about working on these kinds of projects, especially if you’re not a government-funded or affiliated organisation”. He added: “It’s a pity, since the value that ours, and other, similar collections, have is important for the historical record, as well as for researchers, analysts and policymakers, not to mention Afghans, to allow them to understand and come to terms with their own history.”