Stop Cultural Cleansing – Message of Director-General in Iraq

On 2 November, UNESCO Director-General, Irina Bokova, is undertaking an official visit to Iraq to stand with the people and the Government of Iraq in a context of rising tensions and to appeal for tolerance and dialogue in Iraqi society as the foundations for reconciliation and lasting peace.

Her core message is a call on all parties to stop cultural cleansing in Iraq -- to halt the deliberate destruction of cultural heritage and the attacks against Iraq’s cultural diversity and its minorities. 

She will underline her deep concern regarding the current crisis and its devastating impact on its population, particularly on the rich cultural heritage and diversity of the country. On this occasion, she will pledge the commitment of UNESCO to supporting every effort to promote respect for the human rights and dignity in Iraq, notably through access to quality education for all and safeguarding cultural heritage and diversity.

The Director-General will visit the National Museum of Iraq located in Baghdad, dedicated to the collection and interpretation of the history of Iraq and its environs, with collections consisting of objects covering the past 7000 years. The Director-General will highlight UNESCO’s efforts to protect, conserve and rehabilitate Iraqi cultural heritage from the onset of the looting of the museum since 2003.

This visit will take place in the presence of the Minister of Tourism and Antiquities, Adel Fahad Shershab, the Minister of Education and President of Iraq National Commission for UNESCO, Mohammed Iqbal, the Director of the National Museum of Iraq, Qais Rasheed and Deputy Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for Iraq, Gyorgy Busztin.

In Baghdad, the Director-General is expected to meet the President of Iraq, Fuad Masum, and the Prime Minister, Haider Al-Abadi, as well as Deputy Prime Minister, Saleh Al-Mutlaq.

In Erbil, the Director-General will meet with representatives of the Kurdistan Regional Government, including Prime Minister Nechirvan Idris Barzani.

She will visit the Baharka IDP Camp, for Internally Displaced People (IDP) located near Erbil, where UNESCO will open a secondary school in December 2014. She will highlight UNESCO’s commitment to addressing the education crisis resulting from this crisis.

In a meeting with representatives of Iraqi communities and minorities in the region, the Director-General will voice her grave concern over the current crisis, the systematic persecution of minorities and attacks on their cultural and religious heritage, and she will reiterate her call for protection of Iraqi cultural heritage and diversity. She will also highlight UNESCO’s commitment to address the education needs of IDPs.

The Director-General will also visit Erbil Citadel, inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List this year, where she will hand over the inscription certificate to Prime Minister Nechirvan Idris Barzani.

During her visit to Erbil, the Director-General will be accompanied by the Governor of Erbil, Nawzad Hadi Mawlood, the Minister of Culture and Youth, Khalid Doski, the Minister of Municipalities and Tourism, Newroz Mawlood Amin and the Head of the High Commission for Erbil Revitalization (HCECR), Dara Al-Yaqoobi.  

Throughout the official visit, the Director-General will be accompanied by Professor Mahmood Al-MullaKhalaf, Ambassador and Permanent Delegate of Iraq to UNESCO, as well as by the Deputy Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for Iraq, Gyorgy Busztin.