H@R! : Heritage at Risk 2002-2003


Communiqué - 06.03.2003

War in Iraq –Memory and Heritage of the World in Danger

ICOMOS asks all governments and international organisations to preserve cultural heritage of future generations from the devastation of war.

The General Assembly of the United Nations unanimously declared 2002, the United Nations Year for Cultural Heritage. This conscious act of all nations to promote civilisation against barbarism was in part a response to such shocking acts as the wilful destruction of the giant figures of the Buddha in Bamiyan, Afghanistan, by the Taliban.

As an international non-governmental organisation of professionals from more than 120 countries of diverse cultures, ICOMOS (International Council on Monuments and Sites) stresses the importance of respect for the diverse cultural heritage of the World as an essential foundation of peace and progress and expresses particular concern over the fate of cultural heritage in Iraq and the area.

A cultural heritage and monuments of primary importance and vulnerability

Iraq is an ancient land whose history goes back for thousands of years. Scholars and citizens around the World recognise the area as one of the cradles of human civilisation. A succession of cultures and traditions gave Iraq and its region an incredible wealth of monuments of civil or religious architecture, artworks, historic cities, rural cultural landscapes as well as numerous archaeological sites. All of these bear witness to human accomplishments and aspirations recorded in stone, clay, wood and the land itself.

Yet, after years of neglect and looting, we fear that this irreplaceable heritage as well as the dedicated professionals who care for it, will also be victims of a possible war.

International Conventions to be applied

ICOMOS asks all governments to act in the spirit and the letter of international conventions such as the World Heritage Convention of 1972, ratified by 170 countries, the 1954 Convention for the Protection of Cultural Properties in the Event of Armed Conflict (the Hague Convention), now ratified by 103 countries, and the Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property (1970), ratified by 97 countries. Iraq has ratified all three conventions.

Born from the ashes of the massive destruction of the Second World War, the Hague Convention prescribes the identification and protection of monuments of architecture, art or history, whether religious or secular; archaeological sites; groups of buildings which, as a whole, are of historical or artistic interest; works of art; manuscripts, books and other objects of artistic, historical or archaeological interest; as well as scientific collections and important collections of books or archives or of reproductions of the property defined above and museums, archives, libraries and historic districts in cities. While stressing the need for international protection, it reminds us that damage to cultural property belonging to any people whatsoever means damage to the cultural heritage of all mankind, since each people makes its contribution to the culture of the world.

ICOMOS calls for all authorities to promote and apply such principles and the measures presented, and protect historic places of all types. We also call for such places not to be used as shields in the context of military operations or any activities that could be interpreted as such.

Professionals to be protected

ICOMOS also wants to express its deepest concern for the lives and freedom of our Iraqi colleagues, archaeologists, architects, historians, artisans and scholars who dedicated their existence and talent to that rich cultural heritage and its preservation. We ask all sides to acknowledge these persons, protect them as humans, and enable them as professionals to carry on their conservation duty for the benefit of future generations, in particular under the terms of the 1954 Convention. They should be allowed to play a useful role at the service of cultural heritage, under whatever specific circumstances develop in the coming weeks and months, and years to come, to prevent destruction, decay or looting.

The cultural heritage of Iraq, an important part of the heritage of all the human family, has already been suffering for many years. ICOMOS, an international organisation of 7000 professionals and a founding partner of the International Committee of the Blue Shield together with museum, archive and library organisations, is ready to help.

ICOMOS International Secretariat Gaia Jungeblodt, Director - + 33 (01)

- Dr. Michael Petzet, President + 49 (89) 21 14 260
- Dinu Bumbaru, Secretary General +1 (514) 581 3468

[About ICOMOS][General Assembly][World Heritage][Events][Documentation Centre][Charters][Heritage at Risk][20th C. Heritage][ICOMOS Publications][ICOMOS Home page]

49-51, rue de la fédération
75015 Paris, France