Ahmed Kamil Mohammed, Expert at the Iraq Museum (currently Director), reports on the latest news in the struggle to protect, preserve, and rebuild ancient Iraqi heritage. The year 2017 has seen many and varied activities as part of this project: everything from visits by international scholars, meetings with UNESCO, and a historical fashion show to celebrate the liberation of Mosul.
Visit from Andreo Stavros
UNESCO held a session at the manuscripts hospital of the Directorate of Iraqi Manuscripts between July 24 and July 27, in which Andreo Stavros, a specialist in the maintenance of manuscripts, gave a lecture and offered all possible facilities to make the best use of them. Stavros expressed his pleasure and desire to teach as many employers of manuscripts as possible, and he aspires to continue this project as long as possible.
On the occasion of the liberation of the city of Mosul, on July 17 the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Antiquities held a historical fashion show in cooperation with the Iraqi Fashion House, where the designers of the House transported the audience to the atmosphere of ancient Iraqi history with its successive periods (Sumerian, Babylonian, Assyrian and up to Hatra) in the Assyrian gallery of the Iraq Museum.
The models were adorned with the creations of the accessories artists, with costumes and headgear inspired by the costumes of the various historical figures of the ancient periods.
The state of historical buildings in Mosul
UNESCO held an expert consultation meeting regarding the Al-Nouri Mosque and the minaret of Al-Hadba on August 1 in Erbil. The meeting was attended by the Director General of Conservation and Preservation of Antiquities from the State Board of Antiquates and Heritage, as well as and Director of the UNESCO Office in Iraq. The Director General of Maintenance mentioned that there are steps to be followed for the reconstruction of the Al-Hadba Minaret, the most important of which is the inventory of the surviving pieces and the collecting of information from the concerned parties, as well as the preparation of all the documents, drawings, pictures, soil tests, construction studies and everything else that is required for the process of reconstruction by specialized engineering bodies.
The Director General of UNESCO, Ms. Irina Bokova, issued a statement on June 22 expressing the readiness of UNESCO to cooperate with the Iraqi government and the international community to restore Iraq’s historical and cultural heritage, including the Al-Nuri Mosque and the minaret of al-Hadba, to preserve historical buildings, and to rehabilitate and possibly rebuild them.
The map illustrates satellite-detected damage in Old City, Mosul, Ninawa Governorate, Iraq. Using satellite imagery acquired on July 18, UNITAR-UNOSAT identified a total of 6,981 affected structures within this part of the city. This marks an overall increase of 26% in affected structures from the previous assessment on June 30. Approximately 1,202 of these were destroyed (17% of the total affected buildings), 3,982 severely damaged (57% of the total affected buildings) and 1,797 moderately damaged (26% of the total affected buildings). This marks a 145% increase in destroyed buildings, 4% in moderately damaged buildings and 20% severely damaged buildings with respect to the June 30 assessment. The most heavily impacted areas appear to be the Ras al-Kur (see inset) and the Maydan neighbourhoods. Due to the densely constructed nature of this part of the city, these values might be underestimated. This is a preliminary analysis and has not yet been validated in the field.
The Rapid Response Plan and support from Japan
In cooperation with UNESCO, the State Board of Antiquities and Heritage launched the Rapid Response Plan for the Protection of Cultural Heritage in the liberated areas of Iraq on August 3, which emerged from the recommendations of the International Coordinating Conference for the Protection of Cultural Heritage in Iraq held in February at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris. The State Board of Antiquities and Heritage has received a Japanese grant, GPR equipment that will provide archaeologists and expeditions with much support, money and time to explore the effects of destruction in depth.
The event was attended by the Minister of Culture, Tourism and Antiquities, the Japanese Ambassador in Iraq, the Director of the UNESCO Office in Iraq Louise Haxthausen, and those interested in archaeological affairs. The response plan will work towards the rehabilitation of several sectors:
- Archaeological sites and registered World Heritage sites
- The religious heritage of shrines, churches and temples
- Historical buildings and urban heritage
- Museums and museum collections
- Historical manuscripts
The invitation to the international community has been renewed, for countries and organizations to stand with Iraq and to implement the response plan, because the Iraqi civilization is a universal human heritage shared by all. All the international initiatives made by the friends of Iraq have been appreciated, and thanks go especially to the Japanese government and people for their project to protect the Museum and to document cultural heritage sites at risk.
The Director of the UNESCO Office in Iraq, Louise Haxthausen, thanked the Japanese Ambassador for this assistance, which was presented at this critical moment in the history of Iraq, noting that UNESCO has earlier worked with the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Culture on three main themes:
- Monitoring and documenting the archaeological sites at risk from attacks,
- Strengthening capacities in the registration and control of archaeological sites, including the documentation and inventory of archaeological sites and archaeological collections,
- Providing systems and software to the State Board of Antiquities and Heritage, and the implementation of some of these measures in the renewed protection of targeted archaeological sites, especially those that were destroyed in Nimrod.
The Japanese ambassador said that he was happy to sign off on the list of equipment provided to the State Board of Antiquities and Heritage, as the legacy of the ancient Iraqi heritage is at great risk due to the continuing wars and the insurgence of Isis, and since preserving this heritage and passing it on to the next generation is very important not only for Iraq, but for the whole world.
Dr. Rients de Boer from the University of Amsterdam visited the Iraq Museum on August 15 and gave a lecture on cuneiform texts from Tell Abu Antik, attended by interested staff from the State Board of Antiquities and Heritage and some professors and postgraduate students from the Department of Archaeology, University of Baghdad.