Sunday, March 08, 2015

UN culture agency says Hatra destruction shows 'contempt' for history, heritage of Arab people

UN, 7 March 2015 – Official sources in Iraq reported today the destruction by Islamic State forces of the United Nations World Heritage property of Hatra, the capital of the first Arab kingdom, ‎and a city that bears the roots of Islamic Arab cities, according to a statement released by the UN body charged with protecting cultural sites.

“The destruction of Hatra marks a turning point in the appalling strategy of cultural cleansing underway in Iraq,” said the Director General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, Irina Bokova, and the Director General of the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO), Abdulaziz Othman Altwaijri, in a joint statement. 

In recent days, attacks against the culture of Iraq have seen a dramatic escalation, with brutal destruction of invaluable cultural items at the Mosul Museum and bulldozing of the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud.

“With this latest act of barbarism against Hatra, Daesh shows the contempt in which it holds the history and heritage of Arab people, which had been rightly recognized as a World Heritage site,” the statement said.

Hatra, a large fortified city under the influence of the Parthian Empire, withstood invasions by the Romans in 116CE and 198CE thanks to its high, thick walls reinforced by towers. The remains of the city, especially the temples where Hellenistic and Roman architecture blend with Eastern decorative features, attest to the greatness of its civilization.

The statement said this latest direct attack on the history of Islamic Arab cities confirms the role of destruction of heritage in the propaganda of extremists groups. 

It also drew attention to the cultural toll paid during the conflict, noting that, in addition to the tragic loss of human life and the humanitarian crisis, persecution of cultural and religious minorities, as well as the targeting of cultural heritage for intentional destruction have been practised, with the aim of erasing the history of the country and thus undermining the peaceful coexistence of diverse communities.

"UNESCO and ISESCO are fully mobilized to respond to this emergency and stand ready to assist the Iraqi authorities in any possible way,” said Mrs Bokova and Mr. Altwaijri.

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