UN Condemns Destruction of Iraqi Heritage

The United Nations General Assembly today expressed outrage that attacks on Iraq’s cultural heritage are being used as a tactic of war to spread terror and hatred, “a new phenomenon,” the head of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) labelled as a form of “cultural cleansing” threatening the people and security in the region.

UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova told reporters at UN Headquarters following the unanimous adoption by the General Assembly of the resolution Saving the cultural heritage of Iraq that she welcomed the development as a “turning point” in mobilizing the world to protect the heritage as well as cultural diversity in Iraq.

Ms. Bokova also said she believed the resolution is important as “it could identify cultural cleansing as a new phenomenon now that it is emerging as a threat to security of the people, security in the Middle East.”

UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson, speaking on the adaption of the resolution “with a deep sense of serious and historic responsibility,” noted the “destruction of cultural heritage bears witness to a form of violent extremism that seeks to destroy the present, past and future of human civilization.”

That the destruction “is taking place today in Iraq, the cradle of Mesopotamian civilization, represents a loss not only for the Iraqi people, but truly for all of humanity,” Mr. Eliasson declared.

He also commended the work of UNESCO and its partners for assisting Member States’ efforts to protect Iraq’s antiquities and urged “all Member States, in cooperation with Interpol and other relevant authorities, to step up efforts to prevent the trade in items of cultural, scientific and religious importance illegally removed from Iraq.”

Speaking on behalf of General Assembly President Sam Kutesa, Vice-President Álvaro Mendonça e Moura expressed concern that barbaric and senseless attacks on irreplaceable artefacts of humanity’s shared cultural heritage were taking place with alarming frequency not only in Iraq but also in Afghanistan, Syria, Mali and elsewhere.

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