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UNESCO calls on International Community to Help Revive Iraq’s Cultural Heritage in the Wake of Massive Destruction
Date: 24.02.2017 From: UNESCO World Heritage Centre

A two-day International Coordination Conference on the Safeguarding of Cultural Heritage in Liberated Areas of Iraq ended at UNESCO’s Headquarters on Friday, laying the ground for an emergency, medium and long term action plan to preserve the country’s rich, diverse millennial archaeological sites, its museums, religious heritage, and historic cities.
Irina Bokova, UNESCO Director-General, said that damage was even greater than had been feared and she described today’s meeting as the start of a long heritage rehabilitation process which is likely to require decades of work. “This is a turning point for the Iraqi people and for the world’s understanding of the role of heritage for societies in conflict situations.” Less than three months after sending emergency missions to Nineveh and Nimrud, and, more recently, a damage assessment mission to the World Heritage site of Ashur, Ms Bokova said that “UNESCO is already mobilizing on the ground to support Iraq in protecting heritage and objects most at risk, and to fence off and guard sites.”
According to Qais Rasheed, Iraq’s Vice-Minister of Culture for Antiquities and Tourism Affairs, violent extremists have wreaked severe damage to archaeological sites of world importance, destroying up to 70% of Nineveh and 80% of Nimrud. They systematically dug tunnels in Mosul and other heritage sites in search for antiquities to sell on the Internet and black market. Mohammad Iqbal Omar, Iraq’s Minister of Education, stressed that “we must stop the trade in Iraqi antiquities, adhere to UN Security Council Resolution 2199 [banning all cultural trade from Iraq and Syria], and dry up Daesh’s money flow.”
Many of the actions identified, were qualified as urgent, notably the need to conduct thorough damage assessment and protection measures such as the fencing off of exposed sites.
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