This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
Salim A. Elwazani Architecture & Environmental Design Studies Bowling Green State University
Abstract That Iraq is opulent in history and material culture is not disputed. The succession of powers over this ancient Mesopotamian landscape has left unprecedented governmental, religious, and military legacies to human kind. The heritage areas and monuments seen today demonstrate the national, regional, and global faces of the Iraqi heritage.
The opulence of the cultural resources of Iraq has, unfortunately, proven to be very vulnerable. The military confrontations that have engulfed the region in the last few decades have accelerated the pace of danger not only for the defenseless ancient sites, heritage areas, and monuments, but also for the “sheltered” archeological collections. For viable protection, the need to identify the cultural resources has become a priority. Luckily, the international bodies and experience have a potential hand in fostering such identification. This study will scrutinize the heritage areas in Iraq, discern needs and strategies for heritage area identification and preservation, and explore the capacity of international instruments for identifying and preserving these areas and their elements.
Introduction That Iraq is opulent in history and material culture is not disputed. The succession of powers over this ancient Mesopotamian landscape has left unprecedented governmental, religious, and military legacies to human kind. The heritage areas and monuments seen today demonstrate the national, regional, and global faces of the Iraqi heritage.
2 The opulence of the cultural resources of Iraq has, unfortunately, proven to be very vulnerable. The military confrontations that have engulfed the region in the last few decades have accelerated the pace of danger not only for the defenseless ancient sites, heritage areas, and monuments, but also for the “sheltered” archeological collections. For viable protection, the need to identify the cultural resources has become a priority. Luckily, the international bodies and experience have a potential hand in fostering such identification. This study will scrutinize the heritage areas in Iraq, discern needs and strategies for heritage area identification and preservation, and explore the capacity of international instruments for identifying and preserving these areas and their elements.
A brief explanation of the identification function in the context of this study is appropriate. Identification is a broad concept with shades of meaning. Identifying a heritage resource connotes an interrelationship of a number of elements: first, sufficient information about the resource must be available; second, the information is treated; and third, treatment gives results—which justify taking or not taking certain action. The manner in which the results are obtained is designed based on what the identification process is meant to achieve in the first place. The terms “recording” and “documentation” are often used as information collection operation modes in service of identification and preservation.
A common purpose of identification is to decide whether or not a monument, a city core, or an archaeological site is a “heritage” item. This is decided based on the use of a set of established criteria against which resources are judged. This binary type of identification helps reduce massive quantities of resources into a manageable group of qualified properties. A more refined purpose of the identification function is to classify the heritage resources into subgroups, according to some set parameters, in order to establish action or budgeting priorities. The Principles for Recording of Monuments, Groups of Buildings, and Sites explicate the reasons for recording (identification) as follows: a) to acquire knowledge in order to advance the understanding of cultural heritage, its values and its evolution; b) to promote the interest and involvement of the people in the preservation of the heritage through the dissemination of recorded information; c) to permit informed management and control of construction works and of all change to the cultural heritage; d) to ensure that the maintenance
3 and conservation of the heritage is sensitive to its physical form, its materials, construction, and its historical and cultural significance.1
The place of the identification function in the preservation enterprise blurs the distinction between identification purposes and preservation purposes. As a prerequisite for preservation activities at any level, identification innately claims the favors of preservation undertakings.
Status of Iraq’s Cultural Heritage The importance of Iraq’s cultural heritage is measured in grand terms: millennia of years, inventiveness of successive cultures, and abundance of tangible and intangible resources. In their petition to the United Nations and UNESCO on 14 April 2003, the International Scholars of Mesopotamia and the Near East eloquently characterized the heritage import of Iraq:2 Mesopotamia designates the land where human beings first built cities, organized complex states, formulated elaborate religious beliefs, invented writing, developed sophisticated visual and literary expression, articulated measures for maintaining law and justice. The list of humankind's momentous "Firsts from Mesopotamia" is too long to detail. Mesopotamian religious, literary, and artistic traditions represent the origins of advanced culture, and their value to world civilization is inestimable. Understanding of Mesopotamia illuminates fundamental aspects of Judeo-Christian tradition and of Islam, and Mesopotamia has ties as well to ancient Greece—chapters of human history that gave shape to the world we inhabit today. The eminence of the Iraqi cultural heritage enticed some enthusiasts in the utopian thought of bestowing a World Heritage site status upon the whole country:3 an interesting thought, but the point is clear.
Heritage resources of Iraq are defined by the geographic domains of the successive, and oftentimes, contemporary imperial cultures, and, within such domains, by the land’s physical and climatic features (Figure 1). The depth of history in that part of the world has produced a
Figure 1. Map of the archeological sites in Iraq (source, the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago) commensurate array of empires with distinctive cultural sways. While the Sumerian (c. 3000 B.C.), Akkadian ( c. 2340), Assyrian (c. 1370 B.C.), and Babylonian (c.1750 B.C.) empires, are the reputed historic empires of Mesopotamia, several other powers treaded the Iraqi landscape for sustained periods of cultural diligence as well. Originating largely in lands surrounding Mesopotamia, these powers include the Amorites (c. 1900 B.C.), Kassites (c. 1750 B.C.), Elamites (c. 1950 B.C.), Hittites (c. 1595), Arameans (c. 1000 B.C.), Chaldeans (c. 629 B.C.) , Medes (c. 612), Persians (c. 539 B. C.) , Greek Seleucids (c. 310 B.C), Parthians (c. 250 B.C.), Sassanids (A.D. 226), and Muslim Arabs (A.D. 637).4
Cultural areas have concentrated around the waterways of the Two Rivers, Tigris and Euphrates, and in the lush highlands of the Iraqi northern region. Although a great share of the Iraqi heritage resources is distinctly ancient and secluded, another share is of more recent origins and is integrated within the living fabric of present-day cities. The cultural heritage of
5 the country assimilates products accounting, in modern day built environment typologies, for artistic, archaeological, architectural, engineering, and landscape resources.
Fethi classified the cultural heritage in Iraq into four major categories. These categories are summarized below based on this first hand source, mostly using the source words:5 1. Archaeological Monuments and Sites More than 10000 archaeological sites have been identified and officially registered. Most remain, however, unprotected and unexcavated. The real number of sites is much bigger—perhaps even closer to 50000. Only a few sites attract public attention and therefore have deserved official care and protection. These include Babylon (Figure 2), Nineveh, Nimrod, Khorsobad, Hatra, Assur, Samarra (Figure 3), Ctesiphon, Ukhaidir, and Ur. Most other sites are subject to looting and erosion. 2. Historic Urban Cores These include all the old and historic centers of most cities in Iraq. There are some 50 or so such centers. These include: Baghdad, Mosul, Basra, Kufa, Najaf, Karbala, Hilla, Kifil, Amara, Kut, Samarra, Hit, Tikrit, Telaafar, Sinjar, Sulaimaniya, Arbil, Kirkuk, Amadiya, Bashiqa, Qosh, Qara-qosh, Aqra, Kwaisanjaq, Dhok, and Zakho. Nearly all of these cores remain largely unprotected or documented. Most have lost as much as 60 per cent of their historic fabric due to direct demolition, decay, and modern redevelopment.
Figure 2. Hanging Gardens, Babylon (source, John and Peggy Sanders; made
6 available via the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago) This number is hard to determine. This category includes mosques, churches, suqs, khans, caravanserais, hammams, madrasas, takyas, palaces, and houses. There is yet no national register of these important buildings. A very large number of these important buildings has fallen victim to the bulldozer including some very significant monuments such as Abbassid Bab Al-Muadham, Bab Al-Sharqi, and Maaruf Al-Karkhi in Baghdad. Furthermore, traditional houses and other smaller buildings are being lost at an alarming rate.
3. Villages and Landscapes There has been very little interest in villages and landscape areas of outstanding natural beauty by officials, architects or historians. Examples of these areas include the southern marshes, the palm groves of the Basra region, some mountainous areas of the north, and some outstanding villages such as the domed village of Kimbetler near Kirkuk, and Alus and Jubba on the Euphrates.
The unsuspecting heritage beacons in the Iraqi landscape have been traumatized by a series of military activities in the Gulf region for well over twenty years. The damage inflicted on heritage resources in the most recent conflict, beginning in March 2003, has so far been the worse, and the barrage of information about such damage is still coming to us on a daily basis. Embodied in a diversity of messages emanating from numerous sources, the world reaction has come very strong from cultural heritage organizations, professional associations, and preservation advocacy groups, eminent among them UNESCO and ICOMOS. Interestingly, the conflict pattern has tempered the reaction pattern. During the days when the conflict was impending, the voices focused on the collision forces to guard against the damage to historic areas and monuments; following the peak of the conflict, assertions focused on measures to assess the damage; later on, voices converged on lending a hand to the Iraqi heritage authorities.
Figure 3. Great Mosque, Samarra (source, John and Peggy Sanders; made available via the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago) Needs and Aims Because identification and preservation go hand in hand, identification activities of the Iraqi cultural heritage will be defined in light of overall protection issues and preservation plans. Thus, identification through recording and documentation to create national, regional, and local inventories is of particular interest here.
Defining what needs to be done to alleviate a challenging situation forms the foundation for dealing with the challenge. This translates into defining aims for protecting the cultural areas of Iraq. What aims are relevant to heritage protection plans in Iraq now? Because a mission to protect heritage is benevolent, relevant aims derive from the “state of the society”, recalling past events and embracing future vision. The infringement on the Iraqi societal stability in the last few decades, particularly, shapes the direction of heritage protection plans and relates them to aims in three broadly defined categories: humanistic, developmental, and alleviative/preventive. Each is outlined below.
Humanistic aims revolve around Iraq’s societal well being as well as about healthy international recognition of the world’s heritage. Societal needs—and liberties—are at the heart of societal well being. Needs include knowledge, social interaction, and other forms.
8 For cultural education, for example, heritage resources are a rich medium, not only in a general sense, but also in specific ways where resources are honed into topics and contexts for learning in schools, universities, and learning centers. These resources also stand as beacons of national pride, a tributary of social well being. The resources will function as such when they particularly touch on the identities of different ethnic and religious groups in the country. Did the Iraqis have a fair chance to access, grasp, and draw inspiration from their heritage? What is known about internal strife, regional rivalry, and global power intervention says no.
Recognizing the international character of the country’s heritage by Iraq herself and the world community paves the way for protecting the country’s resources of this nature. Such recognition—and actions—extends Iraq an opportunity to contribute to the World heritage and the international community an opportunity to discharge its benevolent responsibilities. How much recognition and action has taken place in this regard so far? Almost none. The “internationalism” of Iraq’s heritage has for long been appreciated, but unfortunately only in a nostalgic academic sense; this appreciation has never been translated into bona fide initiatives.
Complementing the humanistic rationale, the developmental reasoning for protection addresses ways to position heritage resources as a legitimate sector of the country’s economic life. Preserving and rehabilitating resources for reuse and for tourism are established developmental approaches. Tourism development should be seen as a preservation supporting activity and vice versa.6 The creation of a preservation construction industry is an indirect, but important effect of reuse and tourism projects. There is no evidence of guided reuse strategies or judicious tourism plans, especially international tourism—indeed, such evidence has been unthinkable, especially for the period following the 1991 Gulf War. A word of caution, however, is in order: the heritage economic capacity may not be overlooked in favor of the gravity of the country’s proven oil reserves. Each sector gives fruits in its own way, but only the heritage sector will continue to embody thousands of years of Mesopotamian and regional history.
Neither the humanistic aim nor the developmental aim can stand on its own. Both need a favorable environment to blossom. In a notional sense, even the most “protected” site or
9 structure is in a continuum of loss. This continuum, under the gruesomeness of neglect and wars, has been taken to unprecedented heights in the case of the Iraqi cultural resources (the Generals fought the battles, the heritage lost the war). Despite that a major war in the Iraqi theater is now unlikely, the threat to heritage resources is still looming. This threat continues to place the resources in a precarious situation regardless of which direction protection plans are aiming. Intensifying measures to prevent abusing the resources is the single most important consideration now. Also measures to protect heritage resources in emergent or unpredictable situations need to be included in heritage plans starting now.
Principles and Strategies Emerging from the discussion above is a series of principles appropriate for the protection, or preservation plans, of the heritage resources of Iraq. Each principle, by the nature of the preservation process, spills over to the identification function inherently associated with the preservation endeavor; hence, each principle description begins with the opener “identification and preservation plans.”
1. Identification and preservation plans encompass the historic eras and dominions of the country to yield as a seamless of an historical story as possible 2. Identification and preservation plans recognize the histories, achievements, and places that the present-day ethnically and religiously diverse groups of the Iraqi population identify with to help build a national social cohesion.7 3. Identification and preservation plans acknowledge the relative historic, cultural, and inventive significance of the resources and their geographic distribution to yield priorities for their protection 4. Identification and preservation plans appreciate all types of resources traditionally come under the disciplines of architecture, art, engineering, archaeology, landscape, and others to yield as a complete a historical built environment account as possible, and to set the stage for engaging the workers in these and other related disciplines in protecting the resources.
10 5. Identification and preservation plans value the developmental economic potential of heritage resources to help place preservation as a utilitarian strategy in the economic life of the country. 6. Identification and preservation plans value the physical and visual countenance of historical resources to help support the aesthetic integrity of cultural areas, cities, and landscapes. 7. Identification and preservation plans recognize the international dimension of Iraq’s heritage resources to help strengthen the organic relationship of the World heritage and protect the Iraqi resources of this nature. 8. Identification and preservation plans recognize the continuing perils to heritage resources to establish measures for alleviating these perils and for predicting and preventing future damage.
These resource protection principles enter into the making of resource protection strategies. From them emerge two basic strategies with different degrees of emphasis on the principles mentioned above:
Humanistic strategy, emphasizing social and educational aspects Developmental strategy, emphasizing utilitarian and economic aspects
The identification function associated with the two protection strategies will differ in such aspects as the type of resource and parameters of documentation. The humanistic strategy will, for example, require research and documentation programs crossing a gamut of historic eras and dominions; the developmental strategy, on the other hand, will favor the documentation of those structures, sites, and objects whose value is measured by the extent of functional reuse or exhibition as tourist attractions, regardless of the historical or geographical contexts the sources fall into. The humanistic strategy, again, might entail only general surveys for collective cultural areas or representative surveys for scattered pockets of resources; the development strategy typically goes further than that in the amount of information needed for restoration and rehabilitation projects, where a site or structure is more likely to be a subject for intensive research and measurement.
11 One could argue over which strategy is more appropriate for Iraq now. If this seems a dialectical rather than practical question, it is actually intended to be, because asserting a strategy for a heritage hub like Iraq is beyond the wisdom of an individual; it is a prerogative of the collective minds of the Iraqi people with the international hand in the background. However, some observations on the appropriateness of the strategies can be made and, if any thing, in a speculative tone:
1. The political and military developments for a quarter of a century have left a deep scar on Iraqi society. The same forces have also placed Iraq in a dire economic austerity, with a hideous international debt. However, the country is rich in land and human resources and ultimately will climb up the ladder of prosperity. The role heritage resource plans can play in the social life of the country seems to favor the humanistic direction. 2. Adopting a strategy does not mean ignoring aspects of its counterpart altogether. For example, it does not mean to disregard for-profit building rehabilitation projects under the auspices of a humanistic strategy. Indeed, a rehabilitation commercial activity is needed to remind people of preservation viability. 3. The choice for a strategy can shift. This all depends on the country’s social and economic transformation through time. The gap between the two strategies might, at one point in time, become too narrow, a signal for reconsidering strategies. 4. The consideration or activation of either strategy assumes a reasonable opportunity for the strategy to thrive, namely, stable political and social conditions. This implies establishing mitigating measures for the presently ongoing threats and preventive measures for potential threats.
The International Hand What international instruments can be tapped to foster identification and protection of the Iraqi cultural heritage? Some well established sources of assistance and collaboration are mentioned below, appended with examples:
o o o
World organizations such as UNESCO and ICOMOS Regional organizations such as the Council of Europe architectural heritage programs Country cultural programs: too many to enumerate.
Philanthropic and non-profit organizations, such as the Getty Trust Consulting firms: accessible in many countries.
The scale and forms of collaboration range widely. The scale encompasses the grand duty of developing a national plan to the detailed assignment of treating deteriorated historic materials. In Iraq, the making of big plans should come first—without, in the meanwhile, thwarting ongoing sporadic protection attempts. In this view, survey and documentation to establish inventories for the vast amount of resources will be leading activities. At any scale, collaboration may take on the form of providing information, expertise, or funding. Information assistance is probably the most readily available and most conveniently exchangeable—through the Internet and other media.8 Support through expertise offers an interactive opportunity that can result in meaningful outcomes. Financial assistance from a country or an organization, whenever available, usually comes with conditions to comply with.
Success of collaborative relationship between Iraq and the international community can be enhanced by observing some principles: 1. Collaboration complements domestic capabilities. Collaboration is a matter of degrees: it is in great demand now because of the disorderly status of the Iraqi cultural resource protection apparatus; need for assistance and collaborations is expected to vary in a pattern balancing the growing domestic capabilities in future. 2. Collaboration in building the Iraqi heritage apparatus, with emphasis on workers’ training, is a priority. 3. International collaboration is a long-range policy for Iraq and aims at developing a winning “collaborative culture.” 4. Diverse collaborations are encouraged. Collaborations with countries that have some common heritage aspects with Iraq or parties that have had experience in countries similar to the Iraqi context are particularly useful.
13 The interest in the cultural areas of Iraq arises out of an absurd disparity. The Iraqi heritage is one of the richest and most diverse heritages on earth and is, at the same time, one of the most ill-treated heritages. Heritage protection plans could focus on the humanistic, developmental, or alleviative/preventive aims of preservation. These preservation aims, together with a series of developed preservation principles, give rise to two protection strategies: humanistic and developmental. Because the identification function of the Iraqi cultural heritage is intertwined with preservation plans, it changes accordingly.
The role of international collaboration in protecting the cultural areas of Iraq can be significant. Some well established sources of assistance and collaboration include world organizations, regional organizations, country cultural programs, among others. Collaboration ranges widely in scale and form. However, Iraq and the international community can enhance the success of the collaborative relationship among themselves by observing some collaborative principles.
Although having had tragic consequences on the heritage resources of Iraq, the war crisis has brought lessons about World heritage in a very fundamental sense. The fact that a war is in the realm of decision makers focused on the military wins by all means is an impetus for heritage forces to hone their heritage defense skills in times of crisis. No less important of a lesson has come from the development of events between the 1991 and 2003 wars. The embargo imposed on Iraq by the coalition forces put the Iraqi populace in an unsustainable hardship that eventually had its toll on cultural resources through looting archaeological sites and museum artifacts. The gravity of this case is an invitation of the world heritage community to build its capacity for deciphering stifling conflicts in world regions and safeguarding against their potentially devastating impact on historic resources.
NOTES ICOMOS, “Principles for Recording of Monuments, Groups of Buildings, and Sites,” http://www.international.icomos.org/recording.htm, accessed February 22, 2004. “Urgent Petition of International Scholars of Mesopotamia and the Near East to the United Nations and UNESCO for the Safeguarding of Iraqi Cultural Heritage,” http://users.ox.ac.uk/~wolf0126/petition.html, accessed January 13, 2004.
3 2 1
“The Threat to World Heritage in Iraq,” http://users.ox.ac.uk/~wolf0126/#intro, accessed January 13, 2004.
These dates approximate the beginning of empires and based on The History Channel, http://www.historychannel.com/, accessed February 29, 2004 and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, http://metmuseum.org/toah/hi/hi_iraq.htm, accessed February 29, 2004.
Fethi, Ihsan, “Iraq’s Cultural Heritage: Loss and Destruction-The Case for Restoration and Reconstruction,” a keynote paper at the Dubai Cityscape Conference on the Reconstruction of Iraq, Dubai, October 21, 2003.
“The Hoi An Declaration on Conservation of Historic Districts of Asia,” September 15, 2003. Distributed by US-ICOMOS, October 21, 2003. One of the latest countries to recognize this principle has been Indonesia. The representation of ethnic groups and minorities is reflected under the “concern” and the “action” sections of the charter. Center for Heritage Conservation, Department of Architecture and Planning, Faculty of Engineering, Gadjah mada University, Indonesia, “The Indonesia Charter for Heritage Conservation,” December 13, 2003.
Examples of documents available on the Internet includes the ICOMOS document “Principles for the Recording of Monuments, Groups of Buildings and Sites,”http://www.international.icomos.org/recording.htm, accessed February 22, 2004; and the UNESCO document “Recommendation concerning the Protection, at National Level, of the Cultural and Natural Heritage, 16 November 1972.”http://portal.unesco.org/en/ ev.php@URL_ID=13087&URL_DO= DO_TOPIC&URL_SECTION=201.html,” accessed February 22, 2004.
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
We've moved you to where you read on your other device.
Get the full title to continue reading from where you left off, or restart the preview.