Civil Society Launches a Campaign to Save the Cultural Heritage of Iraq
Baghdad \ London \ Rome \ March 29th, 2015
A group of civil society organizations and intellectuals in Iraq, hand in hand with academics, intellectuals, and other concerned international actors, have united to protect and preserve Iraq’s cultural sites and artifacts, and to serve as stewards of the nation’s great cultural heritage. Together they will work to determine the requirements and priorities of this vital work and to coordinate on-going efforts to halt the destruction of Iraq’s unique and priceless locations and relics.
Condemnations of Daesh’s crimes – destruction of sites, the theft and smuggling of cultural artifacts – are no longer enough. We must understand the full scope of the challenge to protect Iraq’s cultural heritage and define priorities for the work that must begin immediately. To be successful the government of Iraq must act in partnership with broad participation from Iraqi and international civil society. We are in a race against time because a significant number of archaeological and cultural sites have been badly damaged; others are currently unprotected. Valuable relics are being stolen or destroyed. Therefore, we must work together.
We welcome the announcement of the UNESCO campaign “United for Heritage”. We call on civil society, the Iraqi government and UNESCO as part of this initiative to undertake three vital steps to ensure an integrated and effective effort to protect Iraq’s cultural heritage:
- Establish an Iraqi Committee to monitor the protection of relics according to the terms of UN Security Council Resolution 2199 of 2015
The Iraqi government must immediately form a special committee with powers to implement the provisions concerning the protection of relics included in UN Security Council Resolution 2199 of 2015. Most importantly, the resolution calls on all countries to take measures to prevent the smuggling of relics and to ensure their return to their original location. The resolution is binding and under Chapter VII any actors who fail to comply may face sanctions. The resolution sets a deadline for states to write reports and a second deadline for UN competent committees to submit a report to the Security Council. The Iraqi Committee should include representatives of the government, parliament and civil society. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs must play a pivotal role, along with Iraqi legal experts and archaeologists. The Committee should coordinate its work with UNESCO, Interpol, and the competent committees, as specified in the resolution. (For details on UN Security Council Resolution 2199, see attachment.)
- Establish and send out expert teams to inventory heritage sites across Iraq that have been destroyed or are at risk and to inventory artifacts that have been removed and may have been smuggled.
The Iraqi government is required to establish and fund the work of expert teams to inventory desecrated sites, artifacts that have been destroyed or removed, and sites that are in danger of future destruction. The state is responsible for the creation of these teams and with providing the equipment and resources necessary to ensure the success of their work in a systematic and scientific manner. The teams should seek the advice and expertise of Iraqi and international experts.
- Train and restore an enlarged antiquities police force and provide it with the necessary equipment and authority to enable the force to protect all endangered sites.
The Iraqi government must, in cooperation with international organizations, especially the European Union, rehabilitate the nation’s antiquities police force and ensure that it is able to protect Iraq’s archaeological sites. This includes providing police with the equipment, vehicles and weapons that are necessary to protect all sites throughout the nation. Protection operations must be coordinated with all relevant authorities.
We ask the Iraqi government and the House of Representatives to support this initiative to save Iraq’s cultural heritage, to discuss it with members of civil society, and to consult with academics and other experts from countries that have experienced similar destruction and looting in order to be most effective in protecting Iraq’s historic sites and artifacts. We call for full transparency in monitoring the activities of the committee, the expert teams, and the antiquities police force. The public must be regularly informed about the results of their work and any obstacles they encounter. Only with accurate and complete reporting can Iraqis be assured of the protection of their cultural heritage and that they are being successful stewards of all they have inherited from their ancestors.
This initiative is open to all. We need everyone who is interested to work with us hand in hand and shoulder to shoulder, knowing that our goal will require years of work and patience. Our declaration will be published with signatures of individuals and organizations that endorse the campaign in alphabetical order. A committee of civil society organizations and individuals to promote this initiative will be formed.
To contact us and sign the initiative, write to the following email address:
Protection of relics as required by UN Security Council Resolution 2199 of 2015 (Arabic)
Signatories to this initiative:
The Iraqi Civil Society Solidarity Initiative (ICSSI) – International Coalition
Un Ponte Per … – Rome
Syndicate of Fine Artists – London