“The antiquities in the Hira and Manathirah areas are considered Christian sites and they are being neglected into non-existence,” Makki Sultani, a writer and researcher specializing in Najaf’s history, told NIQASH. “And there are no plans to protect them. They are gradually being turned into farms and residential areas.”
Some of the treasures found in the area, such as gold pieces and ancient coins, have ended up in the hands of the authorities while other items have simply disappeared, Sultani notes.
Locals here have stolen stones from the ancient tombs and used them to build their own homes, he says. Tombs that have been informally excavated have been left open to fill with water or garbage.
Another problem is the general attitude towards some of the sites. This includes a large Christian graveyard, one of the oldest in the world, between Najaf city and the Manathirah area. It also includes the ancient Emara palace. Built in the year 17AD, it is seen here as a symbol of the Umayyad dynasty, something that many of the population here still despise, because of what it stands for – the Umayyad dynasty refused Islam at first. So the site is neglected.
“A lot of the excavations around these graves are done for the sake of magic, used by those locals who say they are witches to deceive others,” says Ali Hassan, a local historian. “These sites are going to cease to exist if this negligence continues.”