UNESCO Director-General strongly condemns attacks at ancient site of Tel Afar in Iraq

6 January 2015 – The Director-General of UNESCO, Ms. Irina Bokova, strongly condemned the continuous violent attacks against Iraq's cultural heritage, in particular the most recent destruction of buildings at the ancient site of Tel Afar. Located in the Ninawa Governorate in northwestern Iraq, Tel Afar is known for its remains dating from the Assyrian period.

“The continued intentional targeting and systematic destruction of cultural heritage in Iraq must immediately stop”, said the Director-General. "The attacks at the site of Tel Afar are not isolated cases. They bear witness to a strategy of systematic destruction of all layers of the country's cultural and religious heritage ", said the Director-General, reite‎rating her statement of 11 November 2014, which called for a halt to the deliberate destruction of cultural heritage and the attacks against Iraq’s cultural diversity and its minorities.

On 3 December 2014, on the occasion of the High-Level International Conference on “Heritage and Cultural Diversity at Risk in Iraq and Syria”, held at UNESCO’s Paris Headquarters, the Director-General declared that "Such acts are war crimes and their perpetrators must be held accountable for their actions", calling for increased international mobilization against cultural cleansing in Iraq, and a better integration of the protection of heritage into emergency interventions and strategies to restore peace in Iraq.