Recently Najaf locals who want to preserve their archaeological treasures have been protesting, calling on the authorities to stop agricultural and housing development on top of ancient tombs and palaces.
If one tours the area in Najaf province that was previously home to ancient tribes like the Ghassanids, a mixture of religions, including some of the earliest Christians, and the rulers of long gone kingdoms, one can still see the remnants of their palaces and homes, as well as earlier excavations by archaeologists from around the world.
But today these relics are competing with other contemporary buildings and farmland that are gradually encroaching on history.
Tire tracks made by would-be looters searching for antiquities to pillage and then sell, criss-cross the sand. One of the largest sites has become a watermelon farm and a field for poultry, complains Hadi al-Makhzoumi, who heads the local committee for the protection of antiquities and heritage in Najaf.
Al-Makhzoumi’s group has recorded a number of problems in this historical area and on February 1 this year they protested against what they described as the violations against the ancient city of Hira and the Manathirah antiquities, which date back to the fourth century.
They called upon international organisations like UNESCO to step in and protect them and upon the local authorities to stop allowing investment and business in these areas.